ANAHEIM, Calif. » Brian McCann said this moment ranked up there with hitting a home run against Roger Clemens in the playoffs as a rookie.
"It’s a moment I’ll never forget," the Atlanta Braves catcher said. "You dream about stuff like this. It’s not supposed to happen."
What happened was that McCann pulled a 98-mph fastball by Chicago White Sox reliever Matt Thornton, sending a line-drive double into right field to clear the bases and driving in all three runs the National League would score in a 3-1 victory over the American League in the All-Star game last night at Angel Stadium.
The NL’s 13-game winless streak was over.
McCann had played in four All-Star games. He was the catcher in 2008 when Justin Morneau slid home in the 15th inning to give a one-run victory to the AL.
"Completely different," McCann said. "You’re on one side of it then, now you’re on the other side."
McCann was asked by the Hall of Fame for his bat.
"I was thrilled they wanted it," he said.
And he was thrilled because of what the victory could mean for his team in October.
The Braves have the best record in the NL. Of the three division leaders, they have the largest lead at four games.
And should the Braves advance to the World Series, they will have home-field advantage.
"You’re not thinking about it when you’re playing," McCann said. "But now that I get to sit back and reflect, I’m excited. We have a pretty good team."
A pretty good team with added motivation. Manager Bobby Cox will retire at the end of the season. Third baseman Chipper Jones is expected to do so, too.
Home-field advantage was the talk of the NL clubhouse.
NL manager Charlie Manuel told the players after the game, "Someone in here’s going to take advantage of this."
"It’ll give us an upper hand if we make it," Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier said.
The American League scored its only run in the fifth off the Dodgers’ Hong-Chi Kuo. Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria walked before Minnesota’s Joe Mauer hit a dribbler to the third-base side of the mound. Kuo threw the ball into right field, Longoria advancing to third and Mauer to second.
The Yankees’ Robinson Cano drove in Longoria with a sacrifice fly to left.
The AL nearly got something going in the ninth off L.A.’s Jonathan Broxton. Boston’s David Ortiz led off with a single and might have advanced to second on a one-out flare to right by Toronto’s John Buck. But Ortiz had to hesitate on the play and Marlon Byrd of the Cubs quickly threw to second, forcing Ortiz.
Heath Bell, the closer for the NL West-leading San Diego Padres, said he was jokingly threatened with physical violence by pitching coach Darren Balsley if he didn’t return with a victory.
The ever-personable Bell wanted some of the credit for McCann’s big hit.
Having pitched in the fifth inning, Bell was in the clubhouse in the seventh. He tried to watch the game on the 3D television, but
couldn’t get the set to function. So he went back to the dugout with the 3D television glasses still covering his eyes.
"Rally shades," Bell said.