PHOENIX – Pitching, speed and a little bit of power.
The National League is back on top in the All-Star Game, using the same formula that worked during its dominating run in the 1970s and ’80s.
Milwaukee’s Prince Fielder hit a three-run homer and Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay and his relief combined on a six-hitter to lead the NL over the American League, 5-1, on Tuesday night, giving the senior circuit its first two-game win streak since the mid-1990s.
The NL claimed home-field advantage in the World Series, its only blemish being a home run by Boston’s Adrian Gonzalez off the Phillies’ Cliff Lee, a former Seattle Mariner.
“It was great to have the pitching set up the way it was,” NL manager Bruce Bochy of San Francisco 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 of Texas said. “I think when you look at the ballgame, the bottom line is the National League pitching was outstanding. You know, we ended up giving up one big inning and they didn’t give up any.”
Even before they were hurt, many stars were missing. Detroit’s Justin Verlander, Seattle’s Felix Hernandez and many other aces started Sunday and were ineligible; Atlanta’s Chipper Jones and the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez were among those on the disabled list; and Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter wanted a break. In all, 16 of 84 All-Stars were dropped.
Tyler Clippard of the Washington Nationals got the win despite allowing a single to his only batter, Adrian Beltre of Texas. Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers, Jair Jurrjens, Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters of the Braves, San Diego’s Heath Bell, Pittsburgh’s Joel Hanrahan and San Francisco’s Brian Wilson combined to keep the NL ahead.
Fielder won the MVP award after becoming the first Brewer 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 and the captain for the NL Home Run Derby team, was booed during the 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.”
The NL dashed around the bases and stole three bags. Bell showed some speed, too; the reliever provided the image of the night, sprinting in from the bullpen in the eighth inning with a TV camerman in hot pursuit – and tearing up the turf with a slide just short of the mound.
“I think he nailed it,” said Wilson, the Giants closer who is known for his beard and eccentric behavior. “I don’t know if I’d make it. I think I’d slip, ankle, flip, next thing you know I can’t pitch.”
The Nationals have enjoyed their best run since taking three in a row from 1994-96 – they had lost 12 straight games played to a decision before a 3-1 victory at Anaheim last year.
Andre Ethier of the Dodgers and Pablo Sandoval of the Giants also drove in runs for the NL before a crowd of 47,994 that included Muhammad Ali.
The home runs were the first in the All-Star Game since Boston’s J.D. Drew connected at Yankee Stadium three years ago.
Texas’ C.J. Wilson, the fourth AL pitcher, took the loss.
In a modern stadium with an old-fashioned keyhole dirt path between the mound and the plate, there were flickers of sunlight shining through glass panels in the roof when Halladay started Curtis Granderson of the Yankees off with a 91 mph pitch as once again, pitchers dominated early.
“I figured a lot of those guys were going to be swinging early,” Halladay said.
Showing the strength that has given Philadelphia the best record in the majors, Halladay retired six batters in a row – the first to do that in an All-Star Game since Roger Clemens in 2001.
Sandoval doubled in a run off Seattle’s Brandon League in the seventh.