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.”