NEW YORK — Mariano Rivera reported early for work, and walked off to a fitting tribute.
Summoned in the eighth inning to make sure he would pitch in his final All-Star Game, the New York Yankees’ indomitable closer got three consecutive outs and soaked up a pair of standing ovations while helping the American League to a 3-0 victory over the National League on Tuesday night at Citi Field.
“I wanted to pitch,” said Rivera, who took home the MVP trophy. “I think the plan was perfect.”
Rivera and nine other pitchers combined on a three-hitter as the AL snapped a three-game skid and regained home-field advantage in the World Series. Texas’ Joe Nathan saved it in Rivera’s place after the AL squad scratched out a pair of runs and got an RBI double from Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis.
Robinson Cano of the Yankees hobbled off early after getting hit by a pitch from crosstown rival Matt Harvey of the hosting Mets. X-rays were negative and Cano said he shouldn’t miss any games for the Yankees.
Harvey and opposing starter Max Scherzer of Detroit were among a record 39 first-time All-Stars in a game that featured four precocious players 21 or younger — baseball’s next generation.
Both pitchers came out throwing 99 mph heat, but it was Rivera, at 43 the oldest All-Star since Carlton Fisk in 1991, who was the center of attention in his farewell season. And on this night, with drug suspensions still looming for some of the game’s biggest names, the spotlight found a player who is almost universally respected.
Baseball’s career saves leader came in from the bullpen to Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” just like across town at Yankee Stadium, and was left alone on the field for 90 seconds to take in a stirring ovation.
“It was a great moment. He is one of the best pitchers that’s ever played this game,” Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter said.
Players on both sides clapped from the top of the dugout steps, and Rivera tipped his cap to the crowd.
Then he went to work, retiring three hitters in a row on 16 pitches — all cutters, as usual — before walking off to another ovation and receiving a hug from Detroit ace Justin Verlander.
“I just happened to be standing out there,” Verlander said. “That’s something that I will never forget.”
Next stop, the Hall of Fame.
“It was tough. It was special,” an emotional Rivera said. “Seeing the fans sharing and both teams standing out of the dugout, managers, coaches, players, priceless.”
It was the latest salute to Rivera, set to retire after this season. The 13-time All-Star is on something of a farewell tour, receiving creative gifts at each opposing ballpark he visits for the final time.
He got a rocking chair built out of broken bats in Minnesota, a decorated surfboard and bottle of wine in Oakland.
The last time he was at Citi Field, though, things didn’t go so well. He was honored by the Mets before a game in late May, threw out a ceremonial first ball — and then had his first blown save of the year.
Rivera pitched a total of nine innings in All-Star play over his career, allowing an unearned run way back in 2000. The only older pitcher to appear in an All-Star Game was 47-year-old Satchel Paige 60 years ago, according to STATS.
AL manager Jim Leyland had promised Rivera would pitch. So rather than risk waiting for a save opportunity that might never come, the Tigers skipper made his much-awaited call one inning earlier than Rivera is accustomed.
“First class all the way,” Mets captain David Wright said. “Well-deserving for Mariano. I was on the top step clapping and cheering as loud as I could.”
Winning pitcher Chris Sale from the Chicago White Sox worked two perfect innings for the AL, which trimmed the NL lead to 43-39-2 in All-Star Games.
The NL didn’t manage a base runner until a one-out single by St. Louis’ Carlos Beltran in the fourth off the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez.
Fans chanted Harvey’s name during pregame introductions, and the 24-year-old sensation delivered with three strikeouts in two shutout innings.
Harvey was the youngest All-Star starting pitcher since former Mets ace Dwight Gooden was 23 a quarter-century ago — and the first from the home team since Houston’s Roger Clemens in 2004. Gooden cheered Harvey on from the stands.
All the buildup might have made the phenom a little too excited at the start. Mike Trout of the Angels doubled inside first base on his opening pitch, and Harvey drilled Cano just above the right knee with a 96 mph fastball on the third.
Cano crossed in front of the mound while heading to the dugout, and Harvey patted himself on the chest.
“I didn’t mean to, obviously,” Harvey said. “I feel terrible. Apologies go out to him.”