KANSAS CITY — Chipper Jones’ All-Star game career ended the way it started, with a shutout win for the National League.
The NL stunned Detroit ace Justin Verlander with a five-run first inning Tuesday night and rolled to an 8-0 win over the American League at Kauffman Stadium, the third consecutive All-Star win for the NL after a long period of AL supremacy.
The Braves were well-represented: Dan Uggla had an RBI single in the first inning; Jones gave a pregame speech to the team and had a pinch-hit single in the sixth, and closer Craig Kimbrel struck out both batters he faced in the eighth.
“Somebody in this clubhouse is going to be real happy to have home-field advantage come October,” said Jones, referring to World Series advantage that goes to the league that wins the All-Star game.
“I was honored that [manager] Tony [La Russa] asked me to say something,” he said of his clubhouse speech, “and I just wanted the guys to know that nothing’s a given, you don’t know when your last one’s going to be. Soak up this opportunity. I quoted the late, great Lou Brown in [the movie] Major League saying, ‘Two’s nice, but three’s a winning streak.’ We’ve won three in a row.”
Pablo Sandoval hit a three-run triple off Verlander and Giants teammate (and ex-Brave) Melky Cabrera hit a two-run homer in the fourth inning and was selected as the game’s MVP.
It was the first All-Star shutout since the NL’s 6-0 win in 1996, when Braves pitcher John Smoltz got the win, Bobby Cox was NL manager, and Jones got a hit and scored a run in his first All-Star game.
“We bookended it with shutouts,” Jones said, referring to wins in his first and last All-Star games. “The guys were ready to play, man. They came out and jumped on Verlander early. I haven’t seen him that wild in a long time, but we took advantage of some walks. Panda [Sandoval] and Brauny [Ryan Braun] – guys got some big hits.”
Jones got a rousing ovation when he came to bat as a pinch-hitter and hit a groundball through the infield. His familiar “Crazy Train” entrance song played when he strode to the plate, the only player to have his regular at-bat music played for him.
“Chipper was one of the guys that everyone looked up to, especially people that were Braves fans when he was the face of that franchise for the 20 years that he played there,” said Washington Nationals rookie Bryce Harper, the 19-year-old All-Star phenom. “It was so great to see him get that knock [hit] and be able to get a single for his last All-Star game. It’s so much fun to come out here and just enjoy being able to hang out with him and everybody in this clubhouse.”
Jones’ hit squirted through the right side of the infield beyond the reach of second baseman Ian Kinsler, who’d leaned to his right as the ball was hit, then gone to his left in pursuit. The oldest All-Star ran hard to first base and smiled as he rounded it.
“Because I knew that when I turned around I was going to see [AL All-Stars Derek] Jeter and Adam Dunn on the top step, laughing at me busting it down the line trying to beat that out,” Jones said, chuckling as he explained the baserunning grin. “And true to form, they were giving me guff…. I was trying to run it out all the way.
“I mean, 40 years old legging out an infield hit in the All-Star game – that’s exactly the way I scripted it.”
Jones will finish his career with a .429 average (6-for-14) in All-Star games, and commendations from those who heard his unscripted speech after La Russa asked him Tuesday if he would address the team.
“He did a great job,” Uggla said. “His words were awesome. To hear a guy that’s been where he’s been and done what he’s done, to have him speak to you before an All-Star game, I don’t know what else you could ask for.”
La Russa said, “Elite against elite, I believe is the term he used. When I got up, I said, ‘Whatever he said, that’s how I feel.’ I just co-signed it.”
Uggla drove in the fifth run of the first inning with a two-out infield hit that shortstop Jeter fielded on the back edge of the infield. Jeter made one of his patented leap-and-throw plays, but Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder couldn’t handle the bounce and Uggla was credited with a single.
Uggla, who flied out in his last two at-bats, was selected to the starting lineup in the fan voting and was joined on the NL All-Star team by Jones, Kimbrel and Braves center fielder Michael Bourn, who struck out when he pinch-hit for Jones in the eighth.
Kimbrel came in to start the eighth and needed just seven pitches to strike out Asdrubal Cabrera and Ian Kinsler.
“Wow,” Uggla said of Kimbrel’s power-pitching display. “Dude, he was jacked up, man. He was jacked up.”
Verlander allowed five runs on four hits and two walks in the first inning, while NL starter Matt Cain of the Giants pitched two scoreless innings with one hit and one walk. Eleven pitchers combined on the six-hit shutout against the AL, which has totaled just two runs in the past three All-Star games combined.
“We had some fun out there, man,” Bourn said. “They [NL hitters] were swinging tonight, man. That’s impressive, because your adrenaline’s already rushing in an All-Star game, and they were able to calm it down and go out there and provide a spark. Five runs is hard to get anytime in an All-Star game, and they got it in one inning. Then we tacked on some more after that.”
Braun added an RBI double in the first inning and triple in the fourth for the NL, which broke the All-Star game record with three triples, all in the first four innings.
The AL had a 13-year unbeaten streak in All-Star games until 2010, when Braves catcher Brian McCann’s bases-clearing double in the seventh inning lifted the NL to a 3-1 win at Anaheim and made McCann the game’s MVP. McCann’s franchise-record streak of All-Star selections in each of his first six full seasons ended this year, but the NL winning streak he started continued.