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A.L. stars shine brightest

Jeter becomes first Yankee to be named All-Star Game MVP

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American League 6, National League 3

ATLANTA — Derek Jeter and Chipper Jones usually save these duels for October.

The Yankees shortstop and the Atlanta third baseman provided the pop in an All-Star game missing most of baseball's marquee names, with the American League beating the Nationals 6-3 Tuesday night.

Both players went a perfect 3-for-3. But just like their meetings in the 1996 and 1999 World Series, Jeter's team beat Jones' club. Same thing for the managers — Joe Torre won again in his matchup against Bobby Cox.

"That really is a shocker. Derek Jeter stealing all the headlines," Jones deadpanned. "It's good to see no one else in the National League can get him out, either."

Jeter became the first Yankees player ever to win the All-Star MVP award. After the game, his bat was already headed to the Hall of Fame.

"We played some very important big games here against the Braves, obviously in the postseason, regular season, now this game here," he said.

"Our team has been successful here. Maybe we seem to focus a bit more."

On a humid night that needed some juice — and maybe a juiced ball with the likes of Mark McGwire, Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza sidelined — the AL won its fourth in a row and for the 10th time in 13 games.

James Baldwin got the victory and Al Leiter took the loss as the AL cut its overall deficit to 40-30-1. The AL broke open the game with three runs in the ninth, highlighted by Matt Lawton's single.

Jeter, starting because good friend Alex Rodriguez was injured, doubled off Randy Johnson in the first inning, then singled and scored against Kevin Brown in third.

Jeter's two-run single in the fourth put the AL ahead 3-1. That hit came against Leiter of the Mets in a reprise of last weekend's Subway Series.

"We've been watching that ever since he came to the big leagues," Cox said.

Jones did his best to make the 51,323 fans at Turner Field forget that Barry Bonds, Cal Ripken, Manny Ramirez and Greg Maddux also were sidelined.

Jones became the 13th player to hit a home run in his own park at an All-Star game, connecting off Baldwin in the third. He also singled twice, one of them off starter David Wells.

Jeter and Jones may get another chance to meet in October, as both of their teams went into the break in first place.

"It's a very, very proud time for the New York Yankees," Torre said. "Their future did a great job tonight."

The last time the All-Stars visited Atlanta, in 1972, Hank Aaron also homered for the hometown Braves. Aaron threw out the ceremonial first ball this time and received a warm welcome.

The biggest ovation, by far, went to Andres Galarraga. The Braves first baseman, who missed last season while recovering from cancer surgery, got a standing ovation when he was introduced and later rewarded his rooters with a single.

Still, with a record seven starters unable to play, Maddux hurt and 1999 All-Star MVP Pedro Martinez not even on the roster because of an injury, this summer showcase was minus some sizzle.

The seven missing starters were batting a combined .301 with 160 home runs this season and had totaled 66 All-Star appearances.

Johnson, the Big Unit himself, threw only eight pitches in working a perfect first inning. Then again, he threw 121 Sunday while striking out 13 as Arizona beat Oakland.

In fact, Johnson finished off his third All-Star start by striking out Jason Giambi, whom he faced two days ago in interleague play.

Wells pitched two scoreless innings. And, unlike the games that really count, there were no beanballs or brushbacks.

The AL took a 1-0 lead in the third when Brown walked three batters, including Carl Everett with the bases loaded. Jones tied it with his opposite-field homer in the bottom half.

An error by Barry Larkin set up Jeter's go-ahead single in the fourth. Playing in his third All-Star game and making his first start, Jeter had never gotten a hit in these affairs until his MVP performance — he had struck out in his previous two at-bats.

The AL tacked on three runs in the ninth off Trevor Hoffman on Lawton's RBI single, Magglio Ordonez's sacrifice fly and Darin Erstad's RBI grounder, a ball misplayed by second baseman Jose Vidro for an error.

An error set up Steve Finley's RBI single off Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the ninth.