NEW YORK -- In a win, Andrew McCutchen and Jason Grilli might have been heroes. Instead, they have to settle for being All-Stars and getting to go back to one of baseball's best teams. It's pretty good being a Pittsburgh Pirate these days.
McCutchen, Grilli and Pedro Alvarez all got to play in the National League's 3-0 loss to the American League in Tuesday night's 84th All-Star Game, and McCutchen and Grilli teamed up to save what could have been a much worse top of the ninth inning. Alvarez took the game's last at-bat, flying out against Joe Nathan.
Grilli escaped the top of the ninth without allowing a run despite permitting a leadoff triple to Prince Fielder. That was thanks in part to McCutchen's catch of an Alex Gordon liner just in front of the center-field wall. Had the NL rallied against Nathan, it would have been a memorable turning point.
"I was thinking, 'He's going to get out of this,' right away," said reliever Mark Melancon, who became the fifth Pirates All-Star when he was selected to replace the injured Jeff Locke. "That's what Jason does. I wasn't shocked at all that he got out of it."
Grilli was unfazed by the jam.
"Just having fun," he said. "No pressure. This is a fun place to be. I work real hard, and if I can't enjoy this, I don't know. I want to do this again. I might be old, this is my first time, but I'd love to do it again."
The NL loss dampened some spirits in the clubhouse, but it was a memorable few days for the Pittsburgh representatives just the same. McCutchen went 0-for-2 with a stolen base while playing the final 6 1/2 innings. Alvarez played two innings at third base and got the one at-bat, while Grilli pitched the ninth.
"It was fun, being able to go out and play the game, get a couple opportunities to hit," said McCutchen, who was playing in his third All-Star Game. "It's always fun to get that. I had a lot of fun doing it. Definitely another All-Star Game that I'll remember.
Melancon did not pitch, and Locke was not on the active roster after suffering some back discomfort last week. Together, they made up the largest Pirates All-Star delegation since 1972, and now they head back to work on some more history -- getting Pittsburgh into the postseason for the first time since 1993.
"I'm always excited to play with my guys, my teammates," Alvarez said. "It's going to be nice to see them again, get back with them, get in sync with them again and get back to it."
Alvarez was in a bit of a tough spot. He was backing up hometown hero David Wright, the starting third baseman and the face of the Mets' franchise. Wright, unsurprisingly, played the bulk of the game before the home fans.
Still, Alvarez got two innings and an at-bat. The game was extended when Paul Goldschmidt doubled with two outs in the ninth, allowing the third baseman to hit.
"I wanted to be able to get up there and get an at-bat and just be part of the whole experience," Alvarez said.
Melancon warmed up during the bottom of the eighth, but was never called to appear in the game. He said it didn't change what the trip meant to him.
"It was just too many guys for innings, so I understand that," the Bucs' setup man said. "I got a little look in down there. It was fun. Just to be a part of this was really special."
Locke knew all along that he wouldn't pitch. Like Melancon, it didn't diminish his enthusiasm for the week one bit. But Locke never gave so much as a single thought to staying home and resting. He wasn't missing this opportunity.
"It's overwhelming for us," Locke said. "It's special. The whole couple days here have been special. Unfortunately, it goes way too fast. But at the same time, you don't want the All-Star break to be too long. You just want to get back to work, get back to the guys. That's what we're most excited for."
The Bucs get two more days off before hitting the road for a big trip to start the second half. They open against the third-place Reds, then travel to face the Nationals and Marlins on a 10-game trip.
"We've got a unique bond among the team," Melancon said. "Coming here with five guys is special. I've heard several guys say, 'Hey, you guys have got a good ballclub. Keep it going.' There's a respect for us, and we've earned that and we need to continue it."
Matthew Leach is a writer for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.