PHOENIX – Prince Fielder’s three-run homer sailed over the left-field wall at Chase Field, and the conveyor belt from the National League bullpen began.
One after another, a hard-throwing pitcher walked to the mound – well, one of them sprinted and slid into the infield feet first – and then shut down the American League’s hitters for the second straight year.
With pitching, speed and a little bit of power from the Prince, the N.L. is king of the All-Star game once again, using the same formula that worked during its dominating run in the 1970s and ’80s.
Roy Halladay combined with nine relievers on a six-hitter in the N.L.’s 5-1 victory Tuesday night, giving the senior circuit its first two-game winning streak since the mid-1990s.
Brian Wilson got two outs for manager Bruce Bochy and earned the save, just as he did for the Giants skipper when San Francisco won the championship last November.
“It felt like a little bit like last year when you come into a pressure situation and you try to do as clutch performance as you can,” Wilson said.
Heath Bell provided the image of the night an inning earlier, sprinting in from the bullpen and tearing up the turf with a slide just short of the mound.
“I told some guys I wanted to have fun this All-Star game and needed some ideas, so guys back home kind of said slide on the mound,” he said. “Bochy said before the game that this really counts, so I thought I was not going to do it, but then we were up by four runs.”
His N.L. teammates were impressed.
“I think he nailed it,” Wilson said. “I don’t know if I’d make it. I think I’d slip, ankle, flip, next thing you know I can’t pitch.”
The N.L. claimed home-field advantage in the World Series, its only blemish being Adrian Gonzalez homer in the fourth off Cliff Lee. Fielder connected in the bottom half of the inning.
“It’s hard to beat great pitching and a three-run homer,” Bochy said.
With several big names as no-shows, the A.L. lost more than the game.
Boston right-hander Josh Beckett warmed up, then bowed out with a sore knee. Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera left after hurting the oblique muscle in his side while swinging.
“We are not going to use not having Josh as an excuse,” A.L. manager Ron Washington said. “I think when you look at the ballgame, the bottom line is the National League pitching was outstanding. You know, we ended up giving up one big inning and they didn’t give up any.”
Even before they were hurt, many stars were missing. Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, CC Sabathia and other aces who started Sunday were ineligible, Alex Rodriguez was among those on the disabled list and Derek Jeter wanted a break. In all, 16 of 84 All-Stars dropped out.
Tyler Clippard got the win despite allowing a single to his only batter, Adrian Beltre. Clayton Kershaw, Jair Jurrjens, Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters, Joel Hanrahan also relieved and combined to keep the N.L. ahead.
Fielder won the MVP award after becoming the first Brewers player to homer in an All-Star game. The World Series edge could help him later, with Milwaukee and St. Louis tied for the Central lead at the break.
“That was part of the message, how important it was for us, and how important the game was: Do it again for the National League champion,” Bochy said.
Fielder, son of former All-Star Cecil Fielder, was booed during the Home Run Derby a day earlier. He was the N.L. captain for the Derby, and local fans were angry he didn’t select Arizona’s Justin Upton.
“I didn’t take it personal at all,” Fielder said. “I understood it. No hard feelings.”
Andre Ethier singled in a run off rookie reliever Jordan Walden in the fifth, and slimmed-down Pablo Sandoval had an RBI double off Brandon League in the seventh.
The N.L. dashed around the bases and swiped three bags, all in one inning and two by Starlin Castro. In all, the Nationals have enjoyed their best run since taking three in a row from 1994-96 – they had lost 12 straight games played to a decision before a 3-1 victory at Anaheim last year.
Before a crowd of 47,994 that included Muhammad Ali, this was no desert classic – except for fans of pitching.