Matt Capps helps National League get the win -- and relief

Baseball's Mid-Summer Classic is held in Anaheim, Calif.
By Thomas Boswell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 15, 2010


Nobody ever tells the truth about a losing streak until it's over.

Every July, the National Leaguers would say, "No, we're not too upset that we haven't won the all-star game since 1996," whether they were in St. Louis or New York, San Francisco or Pittsburgh, Detroit or Houston, Chicago or Milwaukee, Seattle or Atlanta, Boston, Denver or Cleveland. And they were always lying.

There's no gorilla on our backs, they'd say. Then, with an ominous quiet, they'd say: We are not from an inferior league.

All that's over now. After Brian McCann's three-run double off Matt Thornton of the White Sox sent the NL to a 3-1 win Tuesday night, the relief and glee spread across 34 faces.

You haven't seen this many ballplayers all released from mortification simultaneously since 1983, when Fred Lynn couldn't stop smiling after his grand slam at old Comiskey Park ended an 11-year American League drought.

"Once you're a National League guy and you play in this league your whole career, then the All-Star Game matters to you," said Atlanta's McCann, who is just 26 years old but has already been an NL all-star five times and is probably headed to one of the game's finest catching careers. "Every one of us has had to answer the same question every year. 'You keep losing. You keep losing.' You want to put an end to that. And we did . . .

"The four [all-star] games before this were all one-run games. It's not like they are coming out here and destroying us. So it's nice to get the monkey off your back."

Then McCann thought about how his Braves were in first place in the NL East and as promising a World Series candidate this season as anybody. "And it's nice to get the home-field advantage in the Series," he said. "We're in a good spot."

Seldom does one player have two chances to be the sole hitting hero of this summer staple. When McCann came to the plate in the seventh inning with the bases loaded and the AL ahead 1-0, he had the fresh memory of failure in mind. Two innings before, he had watched his long fly ball, which looked like a three-run homer when it left the bat, die in the Southern California air at the very base of the right field wall.

"I just put my head down and prayed that it got into the seats," he said.

CONTINUED     1           >

© 2010 The Washington Post Company