KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Pablo Sandoval and Melky Cabrera turned the All-Star Game into a Giant blowout.
Flashing their bright orange spikes and booming bats, the San Francisco sluggers keyed a five-run blitz against Justin Verlander in the first inning that sent the National League to an 8-0 romp over the American League on Tuesday night.
Cabrera homered and won the MVP award, and Giants teammate Matt Cain started a strong pitching performance for the NL in its most-lopsided All-Star victory. Cain combined with Stephen Strasburg, R.A. Dickey, Aroldis Chapman and the rest of a lights-out staff on a six-hitter.
“San Francisco Giants show,” Matt Kemp of the rival Dodgers said during the game.
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Ryan Braun, an All-Star again after his drug suspension was overturned last winter, doubled, tripled and made a fine catch in the outfield to help give the NL its first three-game winning streak in two decades.
Chipper Jones singled in his final All-Star at-bat at age 40 as the NL, under retired manager Tony La Russa, once again claimed home-field advantage in the World Series.
Teen sensation Bryce Harper had a shaky All-Star debut. Fellow rookie Mike Trout, only 20, showed off his dynamic skills.
The game was pretty much decided a few moments after it started.
Sandoval hit the first bases-loaded triple in All-Star history off Verlander, who couldn’t control his 100 mph heat. Cabrera singled and scored the first run, then hit a two-run homer against Matt Harrison in a three-run fourth.
“I don’t get many triples,” said the slow-footed Sandoval, known as Kung Fu Panda. “We had some fun with that in the dugout.”
“I was surprised for me, the MVP, but thank you, the fans,” said Cabrera as he received the MVP award.
San Francisco fans, who made a late voting push to elect Sandoval and Cabrera to starting spots, might really appreciate the victory come October. The Giants are a half-game behind the first-place Dodgers in the NL West.
Rafael Furcal also tripled, making the NL the first league with three triples in an All-Star Game.
As the All-Stars returned to Kansas City for the first time since 1973, La Russa bid a fond farewell to the national stage in the city where he played for his first major league team.
Having retired after managing St. Louis to last year’s World Series title, La Russa became just the fourth inactive manager to guide an All-Star team and improved to 4-2.
“Just lucky, like I’ve been 30 years,” La Russa said.
The NL boosted its advantage to 43-38-2 and won for just the third time in the 10 years the All-Star Game has been used to determine home-field advantage in the World Series. La Russa’s Cardinals benefited from last year’s NL All-Star victory, with St. Louis winning Games 6 and 7 at home against Ron Washington’s Texas Rangers.
“It’s very disappointing, because we’re competitors and we want to win,” said Washington, who lost for the second straight year. “They came out. They swung the bats. Once they got the lead, started bringing those arms in their hand, and they got the job done.”
Jones, retiring at the end of the season, also had one last All-Star moment, pinch-hitting in the sixth and singling just past second baseman Ian Kinsler into right field. Jones chuckled as the ball rolled through.
“Whether you’re 19 or 40, we are all equals here,” Jones said during his pregame speech to the NL.
Harper, at 19 the youngest position player in All-Star history, had a shaky start when he entered in the fifth. The heralded rookie, wearing shiny gold shoes, didn’t flash a Gold Glove and lost Mike Napoli’s routine fly to left in the lights, allowing it to drop behind him for a single. He then caught Kinsler’s bases-loaded fly to end the inning, earning cheers from the crowd of 40,933 at Kauffman Stadium.
Harper did draw a walk and tagged up on a long fly, but later got himself hung up in a rundown and tagged out.
Trout, among a record five All-Star rookies, had a nice showing against two very different pitchers. The Angels outfielder singled and stole a base against Dickey’s knuckleball, then drew a walk against Chapman and his 101 mph heat.
“I’m going to remember this the rest of my life,” Trout said.
Cain pitched the 22nd perfect game in big league history last month. He didn’t have to be perfect in this one, allowing one hit in two innings for the win.
“For those guys to go out and score five runs in the first inning was definitely a little more relaxing for me,” he said. “But I still tried to stay focused.”
Cain was followed by 10 relievers, with Jonathan Papelbon getting the last out with a runner on third base.