McCann's 3 RBI-double finally gives National League homefield advantage

Cubs outfielder Marlon Byrd celebrates after helping the National League win the All-Star Game. (Jae C. Hong/AP)

ANAHEIM - Phillies fans boo Scott Rolen even though he left town in 2002. They remember Marlon Byrd as a onetime hot prospect in the organization who never panned out. And they dislike Brian McCann on general principles, since he catches for the division-rival Braves.

The Phillies still have a lot way to go before they can even think about going back to the World Series this fall. But if they do, Game 1 will be at Citizens Bank Park. And they can thank Rolen, Byrd and McCann for that.

All together now: Baseball is a funny game.

Rolen, the Reds' third baseman, singled with one out in the seventh inning at the 81st All-Star Game and hustled to third on a single by the Cardinals' Matt Holliday. Byrd, a Cubs outfielder, walked to load the bases with two outs.

And McCann scored them all with a double to right against White Sox lefthander Matt Thornton that was enough to lift the National League to a 3-1 win over the AL last night at Angel Stadium.

Byrd also made a big defensive play in the bottom of the ninth, charging a bloop single by Blue Jays catcher John Buck and throwing to second to force out David Ortiz and help kill a last-ditch American League rally.

National League manager Charlie Manuel saluted Rolen's ability to go get to third on the play. "He's a tremendous baserunner," Manuel said. "It felt like that kind of set up our scoring."

And McCann was named the game's Most Valuable Player. "This win means a little bit more to me this year because we're in first place," he said. "You think about it more when you're sitting in that position instead of coming in here 10 or 12 games out."

It was the first time the NL has won the All-Star Game since the 1996 edition at Veterans Stadium. In 2003 the rules were changed to award the victorious league in July homefield advantage in October. And November, if necessary.

Said Manuel: "Feels good, feels real good," he said. "I talked to our guys right before the game and told them the importance of homefield advantage. I don't know if they heard me or not, but I liked the way they played."

Neither of the Phillies' playing representatives had much of an impact on the outcome.

Ryan Howard, who started at designated hitter, struck out swinging against Tampa Bay lefthander David Price leading off the top of the second and grounded out to second against Cliff Lee to end the fourth. He remains hitless in four career All-Star at-bats.

"It feels good to be part of the team that finally ended the streak," he said. "Now I think the second half is going to be like a Cannonball Run as far as all the [contending] teams in the National League are concerned."

Phillies righthander Roy Halladay started the sixth, but didn't finish the inning. He gave up a single to Derek Jeter, then struck out pinch-hitter Paul Konerko, of the White Sox. Pinch-runner Elvis Andrus overslid second and was thrown out trying to steal on the play. But after Halladay gave up a single to Josh Hamilton, Pirates closer Matt Capps came in to retire pinch-hitter Ortiz.

He threw 17 pitches, 12 for strikes.

"I'm sure there's some [personal pride] involved," said Halladay, who had been on six AL winners when he was with Toronto. "You never want to be on the wrong end of a streak like that."

This has been the Year of the Pitcher so far, and the All-Star Game did nothing to change that perception. The best hitters in baseball managed a total of just four runs on 13 hits.

The American League failed to convert early scoring opportunities against National League starter Ubaldo Jimenez. With runners on first and third and one out in the first, Hamilton grounded into a doubleplay. And Jimenez stranded Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria after he doubled with one out in the second. The AL also had runners on first and second with nobody out in the seventh, but came away empty.

The National League whiffed on a chance in the fifth. Mets third baseman David Wright led off with a single and stole second. With one out, the Dodgers' Andre Ethier singled sharply to right, but Phillies third-base coach Sam Perlozzo threw up the stop sign and held Wright at third.

It was probably the proper call since Hamilton got to the ball quickly. But Milwaukee's Corey Hart struck out and McCann flied to the warning track in right as a pinch-hitter to end the threat.

It took an unearned run to break the scoreless tie in the bottom of the fifth. Dodgers lefty Hong-Chih Kuo walked Longoria to start the inning. Twins catcher Joe Mauer hit a grounder up the middle that was fielded by Kuo, who threw it high over the head of first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, of the Padres. The error left runners on second and third. This time it counted. Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano delivered a sacrifice fly.

The debate over the wisdom of using the result of the All-Star Game to determine homefield advantage for the World Series will probably never be settled, commissioner Bud Selig conceded that the leagues still don't approach it like they used to.

He noted that Ted Williams once broke an elbow and still played all 14 innings in an All-Star Game at Comiskey Park in Chicago in 1950. Stan Musial homering to win the 1955 game at County Stadium in Milwaukee in the bottom of the ninth. All the years when the National League's starting outfield of Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Roberto Clemente played the entire game together.

Those days are long gone. While managers talk about the importance of winning, the reality is that they are also aware of not bruising too many egos. Last night, for example, two of the best and most popular players in the game - Seattle's Ichiro and Albert Pujols, of the Cardinals, were taken out in the fourth inning. That triggered an exodus of starters from the game.

When Cincinnati's Joey Votto pinch-hit for Howard to start the seventh, Ethier was the only starter left in the game. And he went out for a pinch-hitter before the inning ended.

There was no word on what Aaron and Mays thought about that.


Star gazing


When Derek Jeter came to bat in the first, he was introduced by a recording of legendary Yankee Stadium announcer Bob Sheppard. It was a nice tribute to Sheppard, who died Sunday at age 99 . . . The host Angels let DH Vladimir Guerrero go at the end of the season because they thought his best days were behind him. He signed with the Texas Rangers, is batting .323 with 20 homers and 75 RBI and got a standing ovation from the Angel Stadium crowd.