|NL players puzzled by American League's All-Star dominance|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 10 July 2007 21:45|
For some reason the National League just can't seem to come up with an All-Star game win and the players are struggling to come up with explanations following a 5-4 loss to the American League on Tuesday night.
``It's a little bit frustrating not to win one of these things,'' Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee said. ``It's almost weird. What is it, 11 games now? It's odd. We match up. I don't know what it is. It's strange.''
The AL hasn't lost since 1996, a streak that has included 10 wins and the 2002 tie in Milwaukee. It's the longest unbeaten streak since the NL won 11 straight from 1972-82.
The AL has won all five All-Star games since home-field advantage in the World Series was on the line, including last year's ninth-inning comeback against Trevor Hoffman in Pittsburgh.
``You know a couple of swings the last couple of years, a couple of crazy bounces in the outfield, it happens,'' Philadelphia outfielder Aaron Rowand said. ``They've got it rolling on their side right now and we've got to upend them. There's a lot to it and then there's not a lot to it.''
At least one NL player could take some pleasure in the losing streak. Ken Griffey Jr. was on the AL side for the first four games in this streak.
``According to my calculations it's only been seven for me,'' he said. ``Everybody wants to win. You look at the effort the guys put up in the ninth inning. To battle back against two of the best stoppers in the league and take some at-bats. It was pretty good.''
SHORT NIGHT: NL starter Jake Peavy knew he was only going to pitch one inning so he wasn't too upset when first baseman Prince Fielder made an error.
At least that meant he would get to stay in the game for a little longer.
Peavy allowed a leadoff single to Ichiro Suzuki before getting Derek Jeter to ground into a double play. He looked as if he would get out of the inning quickly when David Ortiz hit a grounder to second base. But Fielder dropped Chase Utley's throw and Peavy got Alex Rodriguez to ground out to end the inning.
``I was actually kind of glad there because I got to throw some more pitches,'' Peavy said. ``I was kind of happy to throw a few more in there.''
Peavy, who threw only 16 pitches in the inning before being replaced by Brad Penny, admits he had a few regrets about the one-inning plan but figures it was for the best.
``When you're walking off the mound, you go, 'I was just getting warmed up and loose and comfortable,''' he said. ``I wish we wouldn't have had to make that decision for one inning but looking back on it, I think we'll be glad going into the second half we didn't stretch ourselves out.''
Penny started last year's game and was in the running for this year's nod. He had an even shorter night than Peavy, pitching a 1-2-3 second inning.
``It was awesome,'' he said. ``What did I throw, seven pitches? That made it even better. I didn't have to work out there that hard.''
HYPED-UP HAREN: Dan Haren's first All-Star experience was a whole lot better once the Oakland Athletics ace got Barry Bonds to fly out.
Until then, the American League's starting pitcher was wondering whether he'd survive the night.
``It was an unbelievable experience, (but) I had the jitters all day,'' said Haren, who yielded one run and two hits in the first two innings.
``I couldn't eat or sleep,'' he said. ``I had the chills during the warmups, the national anthem and the flyover. I felt better once I got the first out.''
Haren, 10-3 with an AL-leading 2.30 ERA, has been a much cooler customer during his remarkable season with the A's. He was chosen by manager Jim Leyland to start across the Bay, and he received enthusiastic cheers when he tipped his cap during pregame introductions.
But the first few pitches were rough. The Mets' Jose Reyes singled and then stole second while Haren was worried about Bonds.
``I knew I wasn't going to walk him,'' said Haren, who faces Bonds regularly in interleague play. ``If I did, I would have been booed off the mound, take a shower, that was it. The fans all came to see him hit, and they gave him a standing ovation.''
Reyes scored on Ken Griffey Jr.'s two-out single, but Haren escaped the jam. After walking Milwaukee's Prince Fielder to open the second, he got three straight outs, striking out Florida's Miguel Cabrera to end a decent All-Star debut.
``I was a little worried about warming up, because I got to the mound late,'' he said. ``But after three pitches, I felt I could throw the ball through a wall.''
And after the emotional exhaustion of his brief start, Haren had big plans for the evening.
``I'm hungry now,'' he said. ``I need to get some protein before I pass out.''
SHORT HOPS: Derek Jeter went 1-for-3 and his batting .500 in 16 career All-Star at-bats, tied with Moises Alou and Charlie Gehringer for the second highest ever for players with at least 10 at-bats. Richie Ashburn had a .600 average (6-for-10). ... Victor Martinez hit the 18th pinch-hit homer in All-Star history in the eighth inning off Billy Wagner. Hank Blalock was the last to do it in 2003. ... Josh Beckett earned the win with two scoreless innings, the first Boston pitcher to do it since Pedro Martinez won at Fenway Park in 1999. ... Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano homered in the ninth inning, becoming the first player to homer for three teams in the All-Star game. He previously homered for Texas and the Yankees.
AP Sports Writer Greg Beacham contributed to this report.