NL wins second straight All-Star Game
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
PHOENIX (AP) — Pitching, speed and a little bit of power. The National League is back on top in the All-Star game, using the same formula that worked during its dominating run in the 1970s and ’80s.
Prince Fielder hit a three-run homer and Roy Halladay and his relief combined on a six-hitter to lead the NL over the AL 5-1 Tuesday night, giving the senior circuit its first two-game winning streak since the mid-1990s.
The NL claimed home-field advantage in the World Series, its only blemish being a home run by Adrian Gonzalez off Cliff Lee. With several big names as no-shows at Chase Field, the AL lost more than the game.
Boston right-hander Josh Beckett warmed up, then bowed out with a sore knee. Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera left after hurting his side.
Even before they were hurt, many stars were missing. Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez and many other aces started Sunday and were ineligible, Chipper Jones and Alex Rodriguez were among those on the disabled list and Derek Jeter wanted a break. In all, 16-of-84 All-Stars were dropped.
Tyler Clippard got the win despite allowing a single to Adrian Beltre, his only batter. Relievers Clayton Kershaw, Jair Jurrjens, Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters, Heath Bell, Joel Hanrahan and Brian Wilson combined to keep the NL ahead.
Fielder won the MVP award after becoming the first Brewers player to homer in an All-Star game. The World Series edge could help him later, with Milwaukee and St. Louis tied for the Central lead at the break.
The NL dashed around the bases and stole three bags, all in one inning. Bell showed some speed, too — the reliever provided the image of the night, sprinting in from the bullpen in the eighth inning and tearing up the turf with a slide just short of the mound.
In all, the Nationals have enjoyed their best run since taking three in a row from 1994-96 — they had lost 12 straight games played to a decision before a 3-1 victory at Anaheim last year.
Andre Ethier and Pablo Sandoval also drove in runs for the NL.
Before a crowd of 47,994 that included Muhammad Ali, this was no desert classic — except for fans of pitching, which has become resurgent as the Steroids Era has receded. Scoring in the first half of this season dropped to its lowest level in 19 years and the major league batting average shrunk to its smallest midseason figure since 1985.
The home runs were the first in the All-Star game since J.D. Drew connected at Yankee Stadium three years ago. The AL finished with six hits for the second straight year.
Given the temperature outside, the theme song for this game could have been the Buster Poindexter song “Hot Hot Hot.” And except for Lee, that’s what the NL pitching was.
San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy became a winner in his second All-Star try, following a defeat in 1999, and gave Giants closer Wilson, the 10th NL pitcher, the save.
Texas’ C.J. Wilson, the fourth AL pitcher, took the loss for the team managed by the Rangers’ Ron Washington.
In a modern stadium with an old-fashioned keyhole dirt path between the mound and the plate, there were flickers of sunlight shining through glass panels in the roof when Halladay started Curtis Granderson off with a 91 mph pitch.
Once again, pitchers dominated early.
“I figured a lot of those guys were going to be swinging early,” Halladay said.
Showing the strength that has given Philadelphia the best record in the majors, Halladay retired six straight batters — the first to do that in an All-Star game since Roger Clemens in 2001.
Lee, his Phillies teammate, followed and set down his first five hitters. Halladay, who started for the AL in 2009, joined Vida Blue, Clemens and Randy Johnson as the only pitchers to open for both leagues.
“It was nice to have Cliff come in right behind me,” Halladay said. “I know Cole (Hamels) wanted to be there too.”
Gonzalez, who switched leagues in the offseason by going from San Diego to Boston, stepped up in the fourth and lined an 86 mph cutter just to the right-field side of the swimming pool, where women in bikinis and a man in a Santa Claus outfit were watching. There’s some history here — Gonzalez is 7-for-13 with four extra-base hits against Lee in games that count.
Notes: The NL has outscored the AL 344-341. ... This was the first time the DH was used for an All-Star game in an NL ballpark. ... Even though the NL won for just the fifth time in 24 years, it holds a 42-38-2 advantage.