American League wins for 13th straight year
ST. LOUIS — Even President Barack Obama wonders: Why hasn’t the National League won the All-Star game since he first ran for public office?
"Three, four years, you can say it’s just happenstance," he said. "But it starts to get to be a trend when you’re starting to go on 12 years. What’s going on?"
World Series champions change. Stadiums change. Stars of the game change.
Baseball’s All-Star game winner is always the same.
Carl Crawford pulled back a home run with a leaping grab an inning before Curtis Granderson tripled and scored the tiebreaking run in the eighth inning. That boosted the American League to a 4-3 victory Tuesday night at new Busch Stadium, its seventh straight win since the All-Star game has been used to determine home-field advantage for the World Series.
"We came here on a mission and the mission was accomplished," said Mariano Rivera, who pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his record fourth All-Star save, breaking a tie with Dennis Eckersley.
Baseball’s home-field advantage innovation began after 2002’s infamous 7-7, 11-inning tie at Milwaukee. The AL is 12-0-1 since its 1996 defeat in Philadelphia — the longest unbeaten streak in All-Star history.
"It is so important to get home-field advantage in the World Series," said Tampa Bay’s Joe Maddon, the AL manager. "So there was a lot on the line there today."
Not even Obama’s ceremonial first pitch helped the NL, which had been 4-0 when sitting presidents threw out the first offering. It scored all its runs in the second for a 3-2 lead, but 22 of its last 24 batters made out.
Despite starting the World Series on the road last year, Philadelphia beat the Rays in five games for the NL’s third title in six seasons. The Phillies’ Jayson Werth, who ran down Justin Morneau’s drive to deep left-center off Francisco Rodriguez to end the ninth, took solace from that.
"Hopefully, we’ll get a chance to overcome that obstacle again this year," he said.
Crawford entered with a pinch single in the fifth and jumped at the 8-foot left-field wall to snare Brad Hawpe’s leadoff drive in the seventh off winner Jonathan Papelbon, which would have put the NL ahead 4-3.
Somehow, the NL always finds ways to lose.
"I still don’t think there’s a good answer for it," Hawpe said.
Crawford became the first non-pitcher to win the MVP with no RBIs and no runs.
"It’s definitely probably my best catch," he said. "I didn’t think it was going to carry that far."
Granderson’s one-out triple in the eighth against Heath Bell landed off the bottom of the left-field wall. The drive went over Justin Upton, normally a right fielder, who took a bit of a circuitous route. Bell, the loser, intentionally walked Victor Martinez, and Jones followed with a fly to deep right.
Maddon credited "these stallions in the bullpen" after Papelbon, Joe Nathan and Rivera finished a five-hitter.
"I’m used to seeing it. I’ve been seeing it for 17 years now," Derek Jeter, Rivera’s Yankees teammate, said. "Nothing he does surprises me."
Starting with Hanley Ramirez’s groundout off starter Roy Halladay that ended the second, AL pitchers retired 18 consecutive batters before Adrian Gonzalez’s two-out walk in the eighth against Nathan. Orlando Hudson singled and, with pinch-hitter Ryan Howard at the plate, stole second before Howard struck out on a pitch in the dirt.
"I got caught off-guard," said Howard, a St. Louis native. "He threw me a slider, and I couldn’t hold up."
Given a 40-second ovation before the game by adoring red-clad Cardinals fans in the sellout crowd of 46,760, Albert Pujols went 0 for 3 in six innings and made an error at first base in a two-run first. He also had beautiful diving stops on Jeter and Mark Teixeira in the fifth, throwing out Ichiro Suzuki at second from his knees after Jeter’s grounder.
"It’s an unbelievable experience. It’s going to be hard to have that experience again," Pujols said.
The AL scored twice in the first against Tim Lincecum after Pujols allowed Teixeira’s one-out bouncer with two on to bounce away. Jeter came around from second on the error, and Josh Hamilton hit a two-out RBI grounder.
"To be honest with you, I was feeling a lot of nerves out there," Lincecum said.
The NL went ahead 3-2 in the second against Halladay. The Cardinals’ Yadier Molina had a two-out RBI single, another run scored when Hamilton’s throw from center field to third bounced off the sliding Shane Victorino for an error, and Home Run Derby winner Prince Fielder lined an opposite-field double down the left-field line.
Joe Mauer tied it in the fifth with a two-out RBI double off Chad Billingsley.
"I think it’s just the guys that put on the uniform — they want to win," Mauer said. "They don’t give up. We always know we have a good chance of winning."