The Streak is Over: Brian McCann leads National League to First All-Star Game Victory Since 1996

The 81st Midsummer Classic took place Tuesday evening at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. At stake was home field advantage for the World Series. Coming into this All-Star Game, the American League was unbeaten in 13 match-ups (including a tie in 2002), but the National League had the overall better record at 40-38 (2 ties).  Starting for the National League was the Colorado Rockies’ Ubaldo Jimenez, who ended the first half of the season with a 15-1 record and a 2.20 ERA. Opposing him for the American League was the Tampa Bay Rays’ David Price, who had a record of 12-4 and a 2.42 ERA. Of the six Red Sox players to make the All-Star game, three were eligible to play (though none were starters): pitcher Jon Lester, third baseman Adrian Beltre, and designated hitter David Ortiz, who last night won the Home Run Derby. Boston’s other three All-Stars were pitcher Clay Buchholz, second baseman Dustin Pedroia, and catcher Victor Martinez, all of whom were on the DL coming into the All-Star Game.

The AL Scores First

In the first half of the All-Star Game it was all about the pitching, as neither team was able to score. The American League had runners at first and third with one out in the bottom of the first, but Jimenez induced a double-play to get out of the inning. The National League found themselves in the same situation in the top of the fifth, but the Detroit Tigers’ Justin Verlander struck out the Milwaukee Brewers’ Corey Hart and induced the Atlanta Braves’ Brian McCann to fly out to right to end the threat. The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Hong-Chih Kuo came out to start the bottom of the fifth, and promptly walked the Rays’ Evan Longoria. The Minnesota Twins’ Joe Mauer then hit a come-backer to Kuo, who thew the ball over the head of the NL first baseman, allowing Longoria to get to third and Mauer to second on the error. The New York Yankees’ Robinson Cano then drove Longoria in on a sacrifice fly to give the AL its first run.

Back comes the NL

The lead held up through the sixth, but then the Yankees’ Phil Hughes came on to start the top of the seventh for the AL. He picked up the first out on one pitch, but then gave up a single to the Cincinatti Reds’ Scott Rolen. Rolen went to third on a single by St. Louis Cardinal’s Matt Holliday. Hughes was then lifted for the Chicago White Sox’s Matt Thornton. Thornton got the Arizona Diamondback’s Chris Young to foul out, but then he walked the Chicago Cubs’ Marlon Byrd, loading the bases. On came Brian McCann, who hit doubled to right, clearing the bases and driving in three runs. The National League came out of the top of the seventh up 3-1.

Missed Late Opportunities for the AL

The AL tried to mount a comeback in the bottom of the seventh against the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright. The Toronto Blue Jays’ John Buck doubled and the Texas Rangers’ Ian Kinsler walked to put two men on with one out. Wainwright calmed down, however, and got the Blue Jays’ Vernon Wells to ground into a fielder’s choice. He then struck out the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim’s Torii Hunter to end the threat. Nothing of note happened in the eighth inning (both sides pitched perfect innings), then in the top of the ninth Tigers’ closer Jose Valverde struck out the side.

The NL brought on the Dodgers’ Jonathan Broxton to close out the AL in the bottom of the ninth. The Red Sox’s David Ortiz singled to start the inning, but then his teammate Adrian Beltre struck out. John Buck then hit a flare to right, but Ortiz was hung up between first and second, unsure if NL outfielder Marlon Byrd would catch it or not. Playing it off the hop, Byrd threw Ortiz out at second for the second out. Ian Kinsler then flew out to end the game. The final score: National League 3, American League 1. The Washington Nationals’ Matt Capps, who pitched one third of an inning, striking out David Ortiz to end the sixth, picked up the win. Phil Hughes, who also went one third of an inning, giving up two hits and two earned runs, picked up the loss. The save went to Jonathan Broxton. It was the National League’s first All-Star Game win since 1996. Brian McCann was named MVP of the All-Star Game, going 1-2 with three RBIs, all of which came on his key double in the seventh inning, which put the NL up for good.

The Red Sox at the Midsummer Classic

David Ortiz went 1-2 and did get on base to start the ninth. However, his lack of speed got the better of him as he was thrown out after being unable to read Buck’s hit to right. Adrian Beltre went 0-1, his one at-bat resulting in a strikeout in the ninth. Jon Lester pitched a perfect sixth inning. All in all, there was one good performance, one mediocre, and one bad one from the Red Sox at the All-Star Game.

What’s it All Mean?

This has been the year of the pitcher, no  doubt about it. There have been two perfect games, two more no-hitters, and a one-hitter that should’ve been a perfect game. Of these, three came from National League pitchers and two from American League pitchers. And of those five pitchers, two from the NL pitched in this game and none from the AL did. The conclusion: the National League has the better pitchers, and they brought them. The National League gave up zero earned runs during this game, allowing just six hits while striking out eight and walking three. In a season where pitching rules, the NL out-pitched the AL, plain and simple. Because the fans choose the starting position players but the players, coaches, and managers choose the pitchers, it can be argued that the best pitchers are chosen but the best hitters aren’t necessarily. This gave the NL a distinct advantage, as the AL may not have had its best weapons at its disposal to counter the dominant NL pitching staff. The result: home field advantage for the National League in the World Series. Whether this will matter remains to be seen, as the American League won in Interleague play, 134-118. But the fact remains that Tuesday night the pitching was on display for the National League, and whoever comes out of the AL to face the NL in the World Series will have some big guns to go up against. Let’s hope they’re ready.

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