07/13/11 1:29 AM EST
Royal blast: Prince's homer lifts NL past AL
By Steve Gilbert / MLB.com
The 2011 All-Star Game MVP smacked a three-run homer to power the National League past the American League, 5-1, in the 82nd Midsummer Classic, providing the Senior Circuit with home-field advantage in the World Series.
"It's hard to beat great pitching and a three-run homer," NL manager Bruce Bochy said.
The Brewers slugger had been booed during Monday's State Farm Home Run Derby for leaving the D-backs' Justin Upton off the NL Derby squad, and Fielder was greeted likewise by a sellout crowd of 47,994 on Tuesday right up until he connected on Rangers pitcher C.J. Wilson's cutter in the fourth inning.
"He threw me a couple of cutters away, he threw me a two-seamer in and I fouled it off my foot and that kind of hurt," Fielder said of the at-bat. "And then I hit another cutter to left-center. It was a good at-bat."
The win was the second straight for the NL, which had not won in 13 previous tries before last season. The last time the NL won back-to-back All-Star Games was 1995-96 as part of a three-game winning streak.
While the AL lineup was a formidable one, the NL clearly looked to have the advantage in pitching going in, especially with the Junior Circuit missing top hurlers Justin Verlander, CC Sabathia, Felix Hernandez, Jon Lester, David Price and Mariano Rivera.
The AL pitching was dealt another blow when Boston's Josh Beckett, who had been scheduled to pitch the second inning, felt discomfort in his left knee while warming up and was shut down.
Still, pitching dominated the first three innings of the game, with a Matt Kemp walk and a Lance Berkman single providing the only baserunners.
Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee, who replaced teammate Roy Halladay in the third inning, retired the first two batters of the fourth before giving up a home run to Boston's Adrian Gonzalez on an 0-1 cut fastball.
The homer was the first in an All-Star Game since Boston's J.D. Drew hit one off Edinson Volquez in the seventh inning of the 2008 game at the old Yankee Stadium, a span of 208 at-bats between homers.
It also marked the first All-Star Game run allowed by Lee, who had previously pitched in the 2008 and '10 games, tossing three scoreless innings and striking out four.
The damage could have been worse as the AL strung together three straight singles, but NL left fielder Hunter Pence saved the day when he came up throwing on Adrian Beltre's single and nailed Jose Bautista trying to score from second to end the fourth inning.
"I had a weird intuition he was about to hit a line drive and was like, 'OK, if he hits a line drive, I'm going to try and make a good throw,'" Pence said. "I was anticipating it a little bit. It happened the way I envisioned, kind of."
Wilson came on to pitch for the AL in the bottom of the fourth, and the Rangers left-hander immediately found himself in a major jam. Carlos Beltran singled deep in the hole at short, and Kemp followed with a single to left-center.
That brought up Fielder, who worked Wilson to a 2-2 count before hammering a cutter just over the left-center-field wall for a three-run homer to give the NL a 3-1 advantage.
"I didn't have a good grip on it," Wilson said of the pitch. "Instead of gripping and ripping, I was gripping and slipping, and he hit it out. Pitch one inning, one mistake, Prince Fielder ... that's why he was in the Home Run Derby."
The ball actually struck the yellow line that runs along the top of the padded wall and bounced over into a camera area.
"I thought I hit it good, but I saw [center fielder] Curtis [Granderson] running it down. It made me nervous, because he was at full speed," Fielder said. "So you know, I knew if it wasn't a homer, I'd better hurry up and get to second, because he might throw me out, because he was on it. Got a little scared there for a second."
Fielder became the first Brewers player to homer in an All-Star Game, leaving the Arizona Diamondbacks as the only franchise never to have a player hit a homer in a Midsummer Classic.
The NL added a run in the fifth when pinch-hitter Andre Ethier, a Phoenix native, lined a single to right to score Rickie Weeks from second and put the NL up, 4-1.
The NL almost scored a run earlier in the inning, when Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki led off the frame with a single to right-center.
The Cubs' Starlin Castro pinch-ran for Tulowitzki and promptly stole second and third bases, becoming the fifth player to swipe two bases in a Midsummer Classic. With one out, Weeks hit a dribbler to the third-base side of the mound that Angels pitcher Jordan Walden fielded with his bare hand and flipped to Tigers catcher Alex Avila to nail Castro at the plate.
The NL added an insurance run in the seventh, when Pablo Sandoval drove home Pence from third with a ground-rule double to left off Seattle's Brandon League.
Bochy went to his bullpen after Lee, and it shut down the AL. Tyler Clippard, Clayton Kershaw, Jair Jurrjens, Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters, Heath Bell, Joel Hanrahan and Brian Wilson limited the AL to just two hits after the fourth inning.
"Pitching stops hitting, and I mean, those guys over there pitch very well," AL manager Ron Washington said. "The arms he brought in and the stuff that they threw up there at that plate, I think we had two innings where we had an opportunity to maybe get some runs, but they constantly shut it down."
That's been a recurring theme for the NL during its two-game winning streak, as Senior Circuit hurlers have allowed just two runs in their last 18 innings during the All-Star Game.
"It was great to have the pitching set up the way it was," Bochy said.
Things got a little dicey for the NL in the ninth as the AL capitalized on a throwing error by Castro at short, a single by Matt Joyce and another miscue by right fielder Jay Bruce that put runners at second and third with one out.
Then Bochy went to Wilson, his club's closer, and the bearded hurler got Michael Cuddyer to fly out to shallow right before Paul Konerko worked a six-pitch at-bat before grounding out to end the game.
"It's a great at-bat by Konerko, a good battle there," Bochy said. "I was glad to get the game over with to be honest, because they had some good bats coming up."
On this night, though, the AL bats were no match for the NL arms.