Brian McCann, National League Win First All-Star Game Since 1996


Brian McCann, National League Win First All-Star Game Since 1996 Final, NL 3-1:
Finally, the NL breaks a streak of four straight one-run losses and a 13-year unbeaten streak by the AL.

Everyone knew pitching would be the key to this particular All-Star Game, and it was exactly that — plus some timely hitting by Braves catcher Brian McCann — that helped the NL prevail. It allowed just one unearned run en route to victory.

Matt Capps takes the win, while Phil Hughes is saddled with the loss.

It's Jonathan Broxton who does the honors as the closer. He allows a leadoff single to David Ortiz, then fans Adrian Beltre swinging on a high fastball. 

With one out, John Buck sends a fast-falling single into right, setting up a prime opportunity for the AL — but Ortiz makes the move to second too late and is forced out. Ian Kinsler ends the game with a flyout to center.

Middle 9th, NL 3-1: Detroit's Jose Valverde ends the AL's night on the mound just the way it began.

The Tiger boasts a 0.92 ERA and a .125 opponents' batting average, and he shows why, fanning Michael Bourn and Chris Young on eight pitches, then whiffing Marlon Byrd to end the inning.

David Ortiz will lead off the bottom of the ninth.

End 8th, NL 3-1: San Francisco's Brian Wilson and his absurd orange shoes hold tight to this two-run lead in the eighth.

Wilson retires Elvis Andrus and Paul Konerko on groundouts, then pops up Jose Bautista in foul ground to carry the NL into the ninth with the lead still intact.

Middle 8th, NL 3-1: Tampa Bay's pitching brought its A-game to Anaheim this year.

With no Mariano Rivera in the mix this year, the complexion of the AL bullpen looks a little different, but the Rays closer does Joe Girardi proud.

Against Soriano — whom the Red Sox got a good taste of during last week's sweep — the NL stands no chance. He quickly retires Adrian Gonzalez, Joey Votto and Scott Rolen in succession on flyouts. 

Also, Adrian Beltre is in the game at third, leaving Alex Rodriguez as the AL's only remaining bench player.

End 7th, NL 3-1: Nick Swisher, he who ousted Kevin Youkilis from the All-Star festivities, leads off the seventh against Adam Wainwright, who makes things interesting but ultimately protects the NL's lead.

Swisher falls victim to a third-strike curveball. Then, Toronto's John Buck sends a fly ball out toward left, and at first, Matt Holliday appears to have a handle on it — but he gets twisted around and it bounces out of his glove.

Wainwright walks Ian Kinsler to put two on with one out, Vernon Wells chops a potential double-play ball to short, but the only out is at second. Better than nothing.

Plus, Wainwright fans hometown hero Torii Hunter to escape further trouble.

Middle 7th, NL 3-1: It's Braves catcher Brian McCann who puts the NL on top, registering the biggest NL hit in years. Can it hold on to take its first Midsummer Classic since 1996?

The trouble starts with New York's Phil Hughes, who quickly retires the voted-in Joey Votto on one pitch before Scott Rolen reaches on a single. After fouling off several pitches, Matt Holliday singles up the middle, and expert baserunner Rolen beats the throw to third.

Chicago's Matt Thornton replaces Hughes with one out and runners at the corners. He pops up Chris Young to first, then walks Marlon Byrd to load 'em up.

With two outs, McCann easily puts the NL on top with a three-run double to the right-field corner.

End 6th, 1-0: Roy Halladay struggles through the sixth, allowing hits to Derek Jeter and Josh Hamilton before bowing out. That leaves Matt Capps to take on David Ortiz.

Derek Jeter welcomes Roy Halladay with a single to center and is promptly replaced by Elvis Andrus.

After Paul Konerko fans, there's an interesting play at second. Andrus attempts the steal and appears to beat the throw successfully, but he steps off the bag and is tagged out by defensive replacement Brandon Phillips.

Josh Hamilton chases Halladay, reaching with a single after a lengthy at-bat to bring up David Ortiz. Capps freezes Oritz on a fastball to end the threat.

Middle 6th, 1-0: We have our first Red Sox sighting of the night, as Jon Lester replaces Verlander and faces Hanley Ramirez, Martin Prado and Adrian Gonzalez.

Four years ago, Terry Francona told Tim McCarver that Boston scouts said Lester threw harder than Jonathan Papelbon. Back then, McCarver didn't believe him; now, he's changing his tune.

Lester retires Ramirez on a shot back toward the mound, pops up Prado to short after a lengthy at bat and gets Gonzalez to ground out to second (while Buck and McCarver discuss how Gonzalez would have worn out the Green Monster if he had been traded to Boston earlier this season).

End 5th, AL 1-0: As the AL puts the first run on the board, there are plenty of changes for the NL at the halfway point.

Scott Rolen replaces David Wright, Matt Holliday replaces Ryan Braun, Marlon Byrd takes over for Corey Hart while Andre Ethier moves over to right, and Hong-Chih Kuo is on the mound.

Keep in mind Kuo has proven deadly against left-handers this season; they've gone 0-for-31 against him.

He starts out Evan Longoria with a walk, then lefty Joe Mauer stands in. Mauer grounds one toward the mound, but Kuo's throw to first is as off the mark as humanly possible, allowing Mauer to reach on the error while Longoria moves to third.

There are runners at the corners with none out when Robinson Cano — another lefty — hits a sac fly to the warning track, bringing home Longoria with the first run.

After Kuo erases the lead runner on a groundout to second, he's replaced by Heath Bell, who retires Vladimir Guerrero to end the frame.

Middle 5th: Andre Ethier and the NL threaten against a shaky Justin Verlander in what has been the longest inning by far, but as has been the case all evening, the pitcher prevails.

David Wright is 2-for-2 thus far (6-for-13 during All-Star Games), singling to welcome Verlander to the action. Wright steals second, and although Joe Mauer's throw sails into short right, Wright doesn't see it and is stuck at third.

With a man in scoring position and none out, Verlander fans Ryan Braun, then Andre Ethier — the new king of the clutch — singles to left to put runners at the corners. Verlander gets a big strikeout of Corey Hart before pinch-hitter Brian McCann flies out to the warning track.

End 4th: On for a second frame, Josh Johnson faces Miguel Cabrera, Josh Hamilton and Vlad Guerrero. He retires them all, making it six straight.

Ryan Braun makes the catch of the night thus far, diving to make the grab on a ball tailing away toward the line. He lands somewhat awkwardly on his wrist but appears to be fine.

The pitching in this game really doesn't cease to impress. With Justin Verlander warming up to come on in the fifth, it proves that there are a million guys on either side who easily could've started this game.

Middle 4th: Ichiro is out of the game, clearing the way for Torii Hunter to come in. Josh Hamilton moves over to right, while new teammate Cliff Lee takes the mound.

Lee gets three extremely quick outs, his first strikeout coming at the hands of Albert Pujols.

Joe Girardi chats with Joe Buck and Tim McCarver (and it's cut a bit short by Lee's economic frame), and he comments on the shadows on the field making it hard to see.

End 3rd: Florida's Josh Johnson relieves Ubaldo Jimenez after two. He retires Carl Crawford, Ichiro (on a nasty, 98-mph fastball) and
Derek Jeter with the greatest of ease.

After undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2007, Johnson has won 31 of 40 decisions.

Middle 3rd: That's a wrap for David Price, who's replaced by Andy Pettitte — someone who should have made the original All-Star roster, all plotting by Joe Girardi aside.

Pettitte currently boasts his best ERA and winning percentage after half a season. He's also 103 games over .500, and no pitcher in MLB history has been 100 games over .500 and failed to get to Cooperstown.

He begins by fanning Andre Ethier and Corey Hart back-to-back. Yadier Molina sends a grounder up the middle, but leadoff man Hanley Ramirez grounds out to his counterpart to end the threat.

End 2nd: Former Angel Vladimir Guerrero gets a nice ovation from his old hometown crowd before giving Ubaldo Jimenez his first strikeout of the night.

Fox then runs a semi-cruel montage of all of the horrible strikeout pitches Vlad has fallen victim to in the past.

Evan Longoria, after turning a nifty double play in the top of the frame, doubles to the wall in left for the first extra-base hit of the night — but Joe Mauer and Robinson Cano strand him at second.

Middle 2nd: David Price initiates his second frame with his first K of the night, courtesy of Ryan Howard.

For the second time thus far, Robinson Cano bobbles a grounder to the right of the bag. In the first inning, he regained his bearings in time to get the ball to first. This time, no such luck — David Wright reaches on an infield hit.

Just like Jimenez, though, Price is the benefactor of a double play, started by teammate Evan Longoria at third.

End 1st: A nice moment in the bottom of the first. The Angels P.A. plays a recording of Bob Sheppard's voice as Derek Jeter comes up to bat, commemorating the late legend.

A Jeter walk and a Miguel Cabrera flare to short center put men at first and third with one out, but Josh Hamilton sends a double-play ball right back to Ubaldo Jimenez to help him get out of the jam.

Middle 1st: David Price does the Rays proud.

He retires the top of the NL order with ease. No. 3 hitter Albert Pujols makes a bid for a gapper to right-center, but Ichiro runs it down for the third out.

With the sun beginning to go down in SoCal, there could be a bit of an issue with visibility at the plate, or so Hanley Ramirez attempts to convey to Martin Prado on his way back to the dugout.

8:40 p.m.: Rod Carew delivers a strike to Torii Hunter, and we're finally ready to start. I think.

8:32 p.m.: Ah. There's always Ichiro, isn't there? I got excited for a second. I thought MLB's golden rule of the All-Star Game had been outsmarted.

8:28 p.m.: Mercedes from Glee is singing! Clearly the most exciting part of this evening.

8:15 p.m.: Wait — so now that Cliff Lee is a member of the Rangers, does Seattle have a representative at the All-Star Game?

8:12 p.m.: We're almost done with introductions, and weirdly, members of the Red Sox get booed louder than anyone, including the Dodgers, the Giants and anyone in the AL West (the Yankees are a close second).

David Ortiz seems very amused by the welcome. Dustin Pedroia is toting his crutch.

8:04 p.m.: Joe Girardi, Andy Pettitte, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez all pointed to the 2009 championship as a particularly special one, given the fact that it was the last one George Steinbrenner saw.

"Winning the World Series meant a lot to him, but the next day, he was back at work," Joe Girardi told ESPN. 

A-Rod also said he received a hand-written note in 2004 — the year of the Bronson Arroyo slap, the Jason Varitek fight, etc. — that said "I'M COUNTING ON YOU," in capital letters. Interesting.

7:56 p.m.: The All-Star Game is about ready to get underway, and with regard to the Red Sox, there's some good news (imagine that!).

Adrian Beltre, who tweaked his left hamstring on Sunday, arrived in Anaheim, Calif., for Monday's workout and said he felt good and would play in the game on Tuesday.

Originally, AL manager Joe Girardi had indicated that Beltre wouldn't play and would be replaced by Texas' Michael Young — without Beltre's knowledge — but MLB quickly rescinded that, announcing Beltre would be eligible.

Aside from the fact that it gives the Red Sox a bit more representation at the festivities, this means Beltre's injury isn't too serious. If it was, there's no way he'd risk playing in the All-Star Game.

2:47 p.m.: This could be the year the National League finally gets the job done at the Midsummer Classic.

Though the NL hasn’t won an All-Star Game since 1996 and has suffered four straight one-run losses, it will get a good chance to do it with Ubaldo Jimenez on the mound. The Rockies' ace boasts a league-best 15-1 record with a 2.20 ERA, and he’ll face the best the AL has to offer. Tampa Bay’s David Price (12-4, 2.42 ERA) heads up a talented AL pitching staff.

A somber note will fall over the festivities, however, following the death of longtime Yankees owner George Steinbrenner on Tuesday morning. Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and the rest of the league will doubtlessly pay tribute to one of baseball’s most colorful characters.

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