x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Banging McCann is a real hit for Atlanta

The five-time National League All-Star's three-run double helps team to 3-1 win as he scoops the MVP award.

Brian McCann, the National League All-Star, helped his team end a 13-year losing streak to the American League with an MVP performance on Tuesday evening.
Brian McCann, the National League All-Star, helped his team end a 13-year losing streak to the American League with an MVP performance on Tuesday evening.

ANAHEIM, California // Bases loaded, two outs in the seventh inning, and a chance for the National League All-Stars to finally break through after 13 years of waiting. So when Brian McCann, the Atlanta Braves catcher, lofted a foul ball down the right-field line, all he could do was hope the ball would not be caught.

"I just put my head down and prayed that it got into the seats, that I would get another shot," he said. Luckily for him, the ball landed in the stands, just beyond the reach of the scrambling American League (AL) fielders. On the next pitch, McCann lined a three-run double that gave the National League (NL) a 3-1 victory on Tuesday night and made him the All-Star Game MVP. The victory broke the National League's 13-game losing streak in the game, and means the NL champions will have home-field advantage during the World Series this autumn.

McCann has been on the All-Star team all five years he has been in the major leagues, a fact that did not escape John Buck, the Toronto catcher. "He can bang. He can flat-out rake, and the reason he doesn't get noticed very much is because he's that good of a catcher," Buck said. "Good catchers don't get noticed. That's the job, and he's just out there every year, getting it done and being one of the best in the game."

McCann said he hopes this result might help his Braves, who lead the NL East, if they make it to the World Series. "You're not thinking about it when you're playing. You just want to win the game," he said. "But now that I get to sit back and reflect, I'm extremely excited that we won this game. "We have a really good team, the Atlanta Braves. We just have to keep playing good baseball in the second half and see what happens."

Philadephia's Charlie Manuel, the NL manager, talked to his team before the game about the importance of home-field advantage. "It's a big deal. I think home teams play better at home," said Manuel, whose Phillies side have reached the last two World Series and won in 2008. "It feels good, it feels real good." In a year of dominant pitching, young starters David Price for the AL and Ubaldo Jimenez for the NL set the tone - and got even more help from the tricky shadows.

Nearly the entire field at Angel Stadium was bathed in odd patterns of sunlight for a twilight first pitch, creating more awkward swings and misses than usual in baseball's annual talent show. After McCann's double gave the National League the lead, the AL did not go down without some ninth-inning drama. Boston's David Ortiz was on first with one out when John Buck hit a blooper to right field that Marlon Byrd scooped up and threw to second for a force-out on Ortiz.

"Wrong place, wrong time - and the wrong guy, too," Ortiz said. "I saw where he was playing, but I didn't know that Marlon Byrd's a guy who has great speed in the outfield. "So I saw him coming in and I thought he was going to catch it. I just didn't want to get caught in a double play, so I got in between, it bounced in front of him and he made a good throw to second base." Ian Kinsler flied out to end the game and the NL had their win.

"It felt awesome for us to get the win and break the streak," said the Los Angeles Dodgers' Jonathan Broxton, who pitched the ninth inning and earned the save. Until McCann cleared the bases, Robinson Cano's fifth-inning sacrifice fly stood as the lone run in a game expected to be decided by the loaded pitching staffs on each side. McCann's deep fly ball to the warning track in right gave the NL hope in the fifth.

When he made good with that bases-loaded double, Atlanta's steady catcher hit second base and pumped his right fist. During the game, players from the Yankees wore black armbands after the death of George Steinbrenner, the longtime New York owner, from a heart attack earlier Tuesday in Tampa at age 80. Pictures of Steinbrenner showed on two video screens before a pregame moment of silence, and flags hung at half-mast.

"It's a difficult time, on a great day for baseball, the All-Star game, something everyone looks to," said Joe Girardi, the Yankees and AL manager. "A great man in baseball passed. He's meant so much to not only this organisation, but to the game of baseball, and to all of us personally." * AP