Pitching, speed and a little bit of power— the same formula that worked for the National League for so long — all played their part in giving the NL a 5-1 win over the American League in Major League Baseball's All-Star game on Tuesday.
Prince Fielder's three-run homer helped the NL to its first consecutive wins in baseball's showpiece game since 1996, and this time it carries more than bragging rights; it will give the eventual NL champion homefield advantage in four of the potential seven World Series games.
Boston's Adrian Gonzalez put the AL ahead in the top of the fourth inning with a homer off Philadelphia's Cliff Lee. The AL almost went further ahead in the same inning, but a great throw by Hunter Pence to catcher Brian McCann got Jose Bautista at that plate.
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In the bottom of the inning, Fielder became the first Brewers player to ever homer in an All-Star game, going long off C.J. Wilson to score Carlos Beltran and Matt Kemp, putting the NL ahead 3-1.
It was 4-1 in the bottom of the fifth when Andre Ethier drove in Rickie Weeks, who had stolen second base.
San Francisco's Pablo Sandoval got a ground-rule double in the seventh as his shot bounced into the bullpen, scoring Pence to make it 5-1.
The AL got men on second and third in the top of the ninth but closer Brian Wilson got Paul Konerko to ground out to end the game.
"It was great to have the pitching set up the way it was," NL manager Bruce Bochy said. "It's hard to beat great pitching and a three-run homer."
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 a muscle in his side while swinging.
"We are not going to use not having Josh as an excuse," AL manager Ron Washington said. "The bottom line is the National League pitching was outstanding. We ended up giving up one big inning and they didn't give up any."
Even before they were hurt, many stars were missing. Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez and many other aces pitched for their club teams on Sunday, so 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 his only batter, Adrian Beltre. 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.
"That was part of the message, how important it was for us, and how important the game was: Do it again for the National League champion," Bochy said.
Fielder, son of former All-Star Cecil Fielder, was booed during the Home Run Derby a day earlier by fans angry he didn't select Arizona's Justin Upton.
"I didn't take it personal at all," Fielder said. "I understood it. No hard feelings."
Andre Ethier and Pablo Sandoval also drove in runs for the NL, who had lost 12 straight All-Star games before last year's victory.
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.