Baseball

National treasure: McCann ends drought

Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips tagged out Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus, who was caught trying to steal in the sixth inning after overrunning the base.
Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips tagged out Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus, who was caught trying to steal in the sixth inning after overrunning the base. AP

ANAHEIM, Calif. — One key swing by Brian McCann pulled the National League out of the All-Star shadows.

McCann's three-run double in the seventh inning provided the NL all the offense it needed to capture its first Midsummer Classic since 1996 with a 3-1 victory Tuesday night.

In a year of dominant pitching, young starters David Price and Ubaldo Jimenez set the tone — and got even more help from the tricky shadows. Nearly the entire field at Angel Stadium was bathed in odd patterns of sunlight for a twilight first pitch, creating more awkward swings and misses than usual in baseball's annual talent show.

"It is tough to see," AL Manager Joe Girardi said during a TV interview in the early innings. "Until these shadows go away, it's going to be tough to see."

Even that bouncing Rally Monkey on the big screen in a red AL jersey couldn't change things this time. The National League earns home-field advantage in this year's World Series.

The AL didn't go down without some ninth-inning drama, started by David Ortiz's leadoff single. But Jonathan Broxton sealed it, helped by an alert play from right fielder Marlon Byrd and shaky baserunning by Big Papi.

Ortiz was on first with one out when John Buck hit a blooper that Byrd scooped up and threw to second for a force-out on the slow-moving Boston DH. With Alex Rodriguez standing on the steps in the AL dugout, Ian Kinsler flied out, and the NL had its win.

"It felt awesome for us to get the win and break the streak," Broxton said.

Until MVP McCann, making his fifth straight All-Star appearance, cleared the bases, Robinson Cano's fifth-inning sacrifice fly stood as the lone run in a game expected to be decided by the loaded pitching staffs on each side. McCann's deep fly ball to the warning track in right gave the NL hope in the fifth.

When he made good with that bases-loaded double off Matt Thornton, Atlanta's steady catcher hit second base and pumped his right fist. The three guys who scored headed to the dugout with a renewed swagger. Cincinnati's Scott Rolen scored first after going from first to third and sliding safely head first on Matt Holliday's ground-ball single to center.

The Atlanta catcher certainly waited a while for this hit — he was 0-for-3 in his previous All-Star trips.

Rolen was the only one of three Reds position players to get a hit. First baseman Joey Votto went 0-for-2, and second baseman Brandon Phillips was 0-for-1 with a strikeout. Reds reliever Arthur Rhodes didn't get in.

But Rhodes, 40, said before the game he was just happy to make his first All-Star Game.

"I'm so proud of myself," he said. "I'm 40 years old, and I go out there and work hard every day. It was a long time, but now I'm here, and I'm happy."

Cano and his fellow Yankees All-Stars wore black armbands after the death of longtime New York owner George Steinbrenner from a heart attack earlier Tuesday in Tampa, Fla., at age 80. Pictures of The Boss showed on two video screens before a pre-game moment of silence, and flags hung at half-staff.

"It's a difficult time, on a great day for baseball, the All-Star Game, something everyone looks to," Yankees Manager Girardi said. "A great man in baseball passed. He's meant so much to not only this organization, but to the game of baseball, and to all of us personally."

It took the NL 14 years to break through after several close calls. The National League lost the last two 4-3, including a 15-inning affair in 2008 at Yankee Stadium. The two before that were also one-run defeats. In 2002, they tied 7-7.

Phillies Chairman Bill Giles had razzed Charlie Manuel that his job was on the line if the NL didn't finally win again.

Turns out this National League lineup didn't need star Washington rookie Stephen Strasburg — though the phenom pitcher might have generated a nice buzz around the ballpark in those early innings.

Jimenez, Colorado's 15-game winner and first-time All-Star, came out of the gate with two scoreless innings. Price — who at 24 was the youngest All-Star starter since 23-year-old Dwight Gooden of the Mets in 1988 — matched that. Then came Marlins ace Josh Johnson, two more.

It took until the fifth inning for hitters to start making regular contact, the shadows all but gone aside from a couple of small patches in the outfield. With a first-pitch temperature of 85 degrees, this was a steamy summer night even by Southern California standards.

It was only the second time in history that no home runs were hit in consecutive All-Star games. The other occurrence was 1957-58 in St. Louis and Baltimore, respectively.

Neither offense did much to excite a relatively quiet crowd of 45,408 on Tuesday. There were empty seats high in the third deck of right field.

Heath Bell's all-out sprint in from the bullpen to face local favorite Torii Hunter generated some of the only roars all night.

The NL squandered its best early opportunity with runners on the corners and one out in the fifth. Justin Verlander struck out Bowling Green native Corey Hart and got McCann on the long fly to right. Hart went 0-2 with two strikeouts.

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