National League Wins Baseball's All-Star Game

The National League drought is over. The NL has defeated the American League, 3-1, in the All-Star Game for the first time since 1996. It look place Tuesday night just hours after legendary New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner died.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, Host:

The National League hadn't done it since 1996, but last night they finally broke the streak. They took the 2010 All-Star Game, beating the American League 3-1 in Anaheim, California.

NPR's Tom Goldman is with us to talk about it. Morning, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN: Good morning.

LOUISE KELLY: So we should say there was not actually a lot of action in this game, and it took a while for the offenses to get anything at all going. Tell us how it played out.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, you know, for the fans who love a slugfest, it was a snoozefest, I'm afraid.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GOLDMAN: But people who like pitching and defense, they loved it. The four runs total - you know, you mentioned it was 3-1 - was the lowest total since 1997. Since then there's been an average of 10 runs per game in the All-Star Game. So this wasn't a game of towering homeruns.

Pitching dominated, especially on the National League side. Starter Ubaldo Jimenez of the Colorado Rockies, he's the first pitcher in the last decade to win 15 games before the All-Star break. From him, through a total of nine National League pitchers, they gave up only six hits against a very powerful American League lineup.

Now, the American League pitchers only gave up seven hits but one of them was the big one. It was a bases-loaded double by Atlanta catcher Brian McCann in the seventh inning - that scored the three runs and that was all the National League needed.

LOUISE KELLY: And I guess not a surprise that pitching would be so dominant in this game. Pitching has been pretty good overall this year.

GOLDMAN: It has. This has been called the Year of the Pitcher. I mentioned the success of Ubaldo Jimenez. American League starter David Price has been very good. So is another National Leaguer, Florida's Josh Johnson. Those three really controlled the All-Star Game into the fifth inning when the American League scored the first run. But yes, pitching and good defense to backup the strong pitching have been the story of the season so far.

LOUISE KELLY: One thing to mention, Tom. This was not just an exhibition, in the sense that for the past few years the All-Star Game has determined home field advantage for the World Series. So they actually had something at stake last night.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, they did. And you know, the National League now has that home field advantage in the World Series. We're not sure whether that works. It's debatable. Since 2003, the American League has won every All-Star Game and they've had home field advantage in the World Series. But the American League has still lost three of those series to the National League team.

So it's debatable. But I think when push comes to shove, the National League will be happy to have that home field advantage.

LOUISE KELLY: Of course the big baseball story yesterday was the death of longtime Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. Was he remembered at the game last night?

GOLDMAN: Yeah, he was. And you know, Yankees players that were in the game and the American League manager Joe Girardi of the Yankees, they wore black arm bands. There was a moment of silence before the game. And the commentators on the TV broadcast remembered George Steinbrenner several times.

Really though, interestingly, there didn't seem to be a pall over the game. Frankly, he wasn't widely loved. I mean he was an iconic person, a significant sports figure in history. But most fans remember the tantrums, the huge spending, et cetera.

You know, that's why a lot of the eulogies yesterday by people who knew him, people inside baseball, they went out of their way to talk about the behind- the-scenes Steinbrenner, the kind man, the charitable man, the man who mellowed in later years.

Although, Mary Louise, I don't know if he would have been mellow last night. With the AL getting shut down and losing that home field advantage in the World Series, he'd probably be mad.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GOLDMAN: And maybe that's the most fitting send-off for a guy like George Steinbrenner.

LOUISE KELLY: There you go. Thanks, Tom.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome.

LOUISE KELLY: That's NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman talking about last night's All-Star Game.

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