The National League All-Stars couldn't get a runner to first base for nearly five innings tonight, and the American League appeared on the way to breaking an eight-year drought.
The American Leaguers had taken the lead on a two-run homer by Boston's Fred Lynn, following up a perfect three innings by starter Steve Stone of the Orioles.
Then, all at once, the dam broke and the NL swept to its ninth consecutive victory, 4-2, before a crowd of 56,088. The Nationals now have won 17 of the last 18 games.
With two out in the fifth, Ken Griffey -- later named the most valuable player, sent a Tommy John pitch to the deepest part of Dodger Stadium and the AL lead was cut in half. An inning later, it was gone altogether.
"I think my hit pumped the team up," Griffey said.
"It gave us more enthusiasm and we took advantage of their mistakes."
Griffey's blast came with two down in the fifth and the National League went on to score two runs in the sixth and an insurance run in the seventh. The NL improved its record against the AL to 34-18-1 and has won 17 of the last 18 games.
The Red outfielder, who ranks eighth in the NL in hitting at 9341, replaced Dave Kingman of the Cubs in the fourth, just in time to face Yankee hurler Tommy John.
"I kind of knew when I was going in," disclosed Griffey. "I heard Tommy (LaSorda) talking to (Chuck) Tanner (NL manager). He knows I hit John pretty good. I think he remembers the three-run, ninth-inning homer I hit off John here two years ago.
"He tries to throw the slider inside to me and I usually can adjust to it. The pitch I hit tonight was a fast ball and I knew it was out as soon as I hit it."
Until Griffey's hit, the National stars had shown little against Stone and John.
Stone, who brought a 12-3 record into the game as the AL starter, had no trouble disposing of the NL stars, retiring nine straight batters in his three-inning stint. His perfect effort was the first in all-star play since Denny McLain's in 1966 in Busch Stadium.
"I couldn't look at this (NL) lineup as a group," explained Stone. "I had to face each one as a single entity. As a group it would have seemed too big a task, but one by one, I was able to handle nine guys.
"Before the game, I was pretty excited, pretty pumped up. I was throwing my curve a little too hard, but my fast ball was moving."
While Stone was retiring the NL stars, the American League was stranding players. In the first three innings the AL managed to get runners to third, but failed to score.
In the first, Rod Carew walked, stole second and advanced to third on Fred Lynn's grounder to second. But Reggie Jackson went down swinging on a 3-2 pitch by Houston's J. R. Richard.
In the second, Ben Oglivie led off with a walk and advanced to third on Bucky Dent's two-out single. But Stone, who hadn't batted since 1976, when he played for the Cubs, was fanned by Richard.
In the third, the AL should have scored. Willie Randolph singled, but was picked off by Bob Welch. Carew then doubled and took third when Jackson was walked and the ball got away from Johnny Bench. But Oglivie struck out.
The pickoff of Randolph was the start of a long night for the Yankee second baseman even though the AL did manage to take a 2-0 lead in the fourth on a Lynn home run to right.
With two out, Carew singled (he reached base all three times he came to bat). Lynn then ripped a 3-2 pitch for his third all-star home run.
Only two other players have hit more all-star home runs (Stan Musial with six and Ted Williams with four) and only five others have three.
"I hadn't played in five days because of a hamstring," said Lynn. "He (Welch) struck me out on a fast ball the first time. It seems like every time I get a hit in the All-Star Game it's a home run."
Lynn's effort didn't stand up long. After Griffey's homer had narrowed the deficit to 2-1, the NL went ahead 3-2 on four singles and an error by Randolph in the sixth.
Ray Knight and Phil Garner singled with one out, sending Al Manager Earl Weaver to the mound to speak to John. He kept the Yankee left-hander in and George Hendrick followed with a game-tying single to leftcenter.
"I kept John because he usually pitches against right-handed hitters in the American League and does very well," said Weaver. "I thought he was throwing the ball very well and I thought he would get them out."
Weaver then pulled John in favor of Chicago's Ed Farmer, who got Dave Winfield to slap a one-hopper to Randolph. But the ball took a bad hop, hitting Randolph in the left shoulder. Winfield was safe at first and Garner scored what proved to be the winning run.
"The ball Randolph handled on Winfield was a difficult play," noted Weaver. "If he makes it, it's the play of the game and may turn things around. As it turned out, we didn't make the big play tonight and that made the difference in the outcome."
Ironically, Randolph was the last starter to leave the game, playing seven innings.He also made an error in the fourth inning, finishing with two and equaling an all-star record.
"Willie's a pretty good player," said Weaver. "In a game like this, you've got to save some moves for later on. I think (Jorge) Orta was the only player (excluding three pitchers) that didn't get in the game and that's one of the moves I was thinking of."
In the eighth, some shaky play between pitcher Dave Stieb of Toronto and Kansas City catcher Darrel Porter led to the game's final run.
Griffey led off with a single, but was forced at second by Dave Concepcion, who moved to second on a wild pitch and took third on a passed ball. Concepcion then scored on a wild pitch. Stieb had two wild pitches in the inning, tying an all-star record.
The victory went to Dodger hurler Jerry Reuss, who pitched the sixth. The save went to the Cubs' Bruce Sutter, who pitched the final two innings. Sutter had won the last two all-star games in relief. Five NL pitchers allowed just seven hits, striking out 11.
"I'm supposed to come in with a lead and hold it, that's the way it's supposed to work," said Reuss.
"I was trying to keep it down. I was missing, but not by much," noted Sutter, who walked one and struck out one. "I threw nothing but split-finger fast balls.
"With this group you know they're going to get some hits for us. We were held without a hit for nearly five innings, but I knew they'd get their hits and we'd win."