Then Pablo Sandoval and Melky Cabrera proceeded to justify every excess vote that was cast.Sandoval highlighted a historic five-run first inning with a bases-loaded triple, and Cabrera, the game's Most Valuable Player, went 2-for-3 with a two-run homer in the fourth inning to spark the NL's third consecutive victory, an 8-0 shellacking of the American League. "They came out and put the bats where everybody's mouths were," said right-hander Matt Cain, who benefited from the offensive bonanza to record the first All-Star victory by a Giant since Vida Blue in 1981. Cain's two-inning effort complemented Cabrera's hitting as they became the only the seventh winning pitcher-MVP duo from the same team in All-Star history. For weeks, Sandoval remained in second place behind New York's David Wright in NL voting updates among third basemen. Cabrera and Milwaukee's Ryan Braun traded places in the third and fourth spots among outfielders, and though both would have been named starters given the hamstring injury sidelining Los Angeles center fielder Matt Kemp, Giants management wanted to leave nothing to chance. So the ballclub's marketing department launched a sustained push in the final week of online balloting urging fans to vote for Sandoval, Cabrera and Buster Posey, who maintained a slim lead over St. Louis' Yadier Molina among catchers. Giants fans came through in force. Not only were Sandoval, Cabrera and Posey elected to start, but first baseman Brandon Belt and shortstop Brandon Crawford, who hadn't approached an All-Star level of performance, finished second at their respective positions. Even second baseman Freddy Sanchez, sidelined all season by back and shoulder ailments, amassed nearly 2.3 million votes. And Posey's presence behind the plate seemed to influence St. Louis manager Tony La Russa in his selection of Cain as the starting pitcher instead of Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. The NL quickly justifed the voting results as Sandoval and Cabrera helped generate all of the scoring in the first four innings. "We tried to do things to show the fans we support them," said Sandoval, who was outhit by Wright, .351 to .307, in the season's first half. Asked while the game was still in progress whether the fans voted properly, if excessively, Sandoval said, "I'm happy because they made the right decision to choose all these guys. They put a team out there to win the game and that's what we're doing right now." Sporting orange cleats with gold laces and trim, Cabrera and Sandoval walked all over the AL from the outset, as the five-run first matched an all-time single-inning NL high. Cabrera started the outburst with a one-out single off Detroit's Justin Verlander. He scored on Braun's double, which preceded walks to Carlos Beltran and Posey. Up came Sandoval, who lashed a 1-1 breaking pitch off the base of the wall in the right-field corner.
"The guy [Verlander] is throwing 100 miles an hour and [Sandoval] stays on a curveball," Posey marveled.
Braun, Beltran and Posey raced home while Sandoval chugged toward his first triple of the year. Sandoval also became the third Giant to hit a triple in an All-Star Game, joining Hall of Famers Mel Ott (1938) and Willie Mays (1957, 1959-60)"I just hit it and put my head down," Sandoval said. "I saw [right fielder Jose] Bautista running to the ball and I just put my head down trying to make it to third base. That's what I had in my mind." Said Cain, "It's always fun to watch Pablo run." That was more than enough support for Cain, who made his first All-Star appearance after being unable to pitch in his previous two selections. He yielded Derek Jeter's leadoff infield single but survived the first inning, striking out Bautista on a 95-mph fastball to conclude it. Cain admitted that his adrenaline was working overtime.
"A whole lot," he said. "It almost felt like it was even a little more than it was in the playoffs because you know you're going out for one, maybe two innings. So you kind of let it all hang out."After throwing 23 first-inning pitches, a calmer Cain needed only six pitches to record a perfect second inning and propel the NL to its first shutout victory since 1996. Cain thus accented a season in which he won eight consecutive starts at one juncture, including his June 13 perfect game against Houston. "There's not much more that could end the first half better than that," he said.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.