MLB All-Star Game 2010: National League beats American League, 3-1
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
ANAHEIM, CALIF. -- You half-expected there to be a dogpile at the mound, plastic-covered lockers in the clubhouse, champagne spray in the air, wives and dignitaries on the field, speeches and tears on the stage. There should be a ring-fitting soon, a banner going up in center field, a 72-point headline in the morning paper: The National League has won the All-Star Game.
Such is the degree of lopsidedness in the Midsummer Classic in recent years. Such is the length of time since the NL won one of these things. Such is the unprecedented nature of witnessing the Senior Circuit earning home-field advantage for its champion in this fall's World Series.
With one swing of the bat by Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann, the NL ended one of the more remarkable, inexplicable runs of futility in modern baseball -- a 13-year drought in the All-Star Game, dating from the dark ages of 1996. Glory came, finally, with a 3-1 victory over the American League, in front of 45,408 fans at Angel Stadium, fueled by McCann's three-run double in the top of the seventh inning.
"All good things have to come to an end," said Philadelphia Phillies manager/philosopher Charlie Manuel, who skippered the NL team, "and tonight evidently was our night."
The game was played as baseball was still coming to terms with the passing earlier Tuesday of longtime New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, one of the towering figures of the game. His loss was marked by flags lowered to half-staff and a moment of silence before the national anthem.
If Steinbrenner were still around and at his bombastic best, Yankees Manager Joe Girardi, the AL's skipper Tuesday night, might be in fear of his job the rest of the week.
"This Time It Counts" -- the slogan MLB chose to trumpet the tying-in of home-field advantage in the World Series to the All-Star Game outcome -- in this case apparently meant the opposing managers would play matchup games with their bullpens in the middle innings, as all four runs scored not against the game's greatest pitchers, but against relatively anonymous middle relievers.
McCann, a left-handed hitter, stroked his bases-clearing double came against Chicago White Sox specialist Matt Thornton, a towering lefty chosen primarily for his success against lefties. The rally had begun, innocently enough, with a one-out single off Yankees youngster Phil Hughes by Cincinnati's Scott Rolen, who then made a heads-up base running play to motor to third on Matt Holliday's grounder up the middle. Three batters later, after Marlon Byrd battled back from an 0-2 hole against Thornton to draw a walk, McCann lined a fastball into the right field corner.
"I told [NL coaches] Bruce Bochy and Bud Black, 'I hope [Thornton] keeps the ball down and hard, because [McCann] can light him up,' " Manuel said. "He threw him a low fastball, and he clocked him."
The winning pitcher, by virtue of a strikeout of Boston's David Ortiz to end the bottom of the sixth, was Washington Nationals closer Matt Capps, his franchise's lone representative, and a pitcher who knew Ortiz only from television, having never faced him. After falling behind 2-0, Capps threw a pair of strikes to even the count, then froze Ortiz on an inside fastball.
"I talked to [Manuel] and McCann when they gave me the ball, about what I wanted to do," Capps said. "And I said if we got ahead, we'd throw a front-door sinker, and that's what I threw for strike three."
As the winning rally played out a half-inning later, Capps joined his NL teammates on the top step of their dugout, leaning against the rail. Capps and McCann grew up 30 minutes from each other in Georgia and played together on a summer league team as high schoolers. Since both were catchers at the time, one would play outfield when the other caught.