07/14/10 2:20 AM ET
NL has plenty invested in home-field edge
Manuel, stars driven by chance to help their own teams
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
The Junior Circuit's 13-game undefeated streak in the All-Star Game came to an end on Tuesday, and with it the NL clinched home-field advantage in the World Series for the first time since 2001. And nearly every key player in the win has reason to think that advantage might benefit his own team.
Scott Rolen of the NL Central-leading Reds had the hit that started the rally. Brian McCann of the NL East-leading Braves drove in the winning runs. Adam Wainwright of the reigning NL Central-champion Cardinals got the key outs after the NL took the lead. Starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez and closer Jonathan Broxton pitch for the Rockies and Dodgers, respectively, and those two teams are tied for the Wild Card lead. One of those guys will almost certainly look back at this night when he's being introduced at home before Game 1 of the World Series.
"It means to me, a little bit [more] this year than years past because we are in first place," McCann said. "You think about it more when you're sitting in that position instead of coming here 10 games out, 12 games out."
Said Reds first baseman Joey Votto: "This means a lot to the Cincinnati Reds organization because we're in first place and we're doing our best to be a playoff team."
There's a curious coincidence, though. In the short time that the All-Star Game has determined home-field advantage in the World Series, the teams with that advantage haven't particularly taken advantage. From 1982-2002, the last year of alternating home field in the World Series, the home team won 17 out of 20 Fall Classics. In the past seven years, with home-field advantage decided by the All-Star Game, the home club has gone 4-3 in Series matchups.
Which, of course, is not to say that it doesn't matter. Ask players about the importance of the All-Star Game, and almost to a man they'll point to its influence on October. For better or worse -- and plenty of players and others don't like the connection -- you're better off in a seven-game series if you have Games 1, 2, 6 and 7 at your own ballpark.
"The last two years, the Phillies have been in the World Series and it was big," said NL and Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. "Two years ago when we won it, when we played the Rays in Philly and won three straight, we definitely did not want to go back down to Tampa and play. I think home-field advantage, definitely, it's a big deal. I think home teams play better at home, and I think last year with the Yankees, they were a big home team if you go back and check, and they finished the season strong. I feel like that they definitely had momentum when we played them in New York."
Besides, there's the simple matter of pride. You don't get to this level without some personal and professional pride. National Leaguers have gotten tired of hearing about how they're in the inferior league. Winning the All-Star Game helps their case a little. Following it up with a World Series would help even more.
"There was some definite intensity," Wainwright said. "I had to hold myself back from fist-pumping in the seventh inning. But I didn't want to give the other side any reason to get excited. There was some serious talking in that dugout. These guys wanted to win that game. The National League is not a league that needs to be walked on over and over every year. We finally came out here and won a baseball game."
What may be most exciting for the victors is the prospect that it could happen again. While McCann's hit was the key moment in the game, the NL's big advantage was its pitchers. Jimenez, Josh Johnson, Roy Halladay and Wainwright formed the core of the best reason to think the NL could win this year. Jimenez is 26, Wainwright 28 and Johnson 26. Brian Wilson and Broxton, who finished off the game, are 28 and 26 respectively.
Not only are these guys good, they're going to be around for a while.
"The National League's got a lot of good pitching," said Angels outfielder Torii Hunter. "They held us down, and they had two Cy Young Award winners -- [Chris] Carpenter and [Tim] Lincecum -- they didn't even use."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.