McCann's three-run double lifts NL to All-Star win

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- If the Braves advance to the World Series, they can thank Brian McCann for getting them home-field advantage when they get there.

The Braves catcher belted a three-run double in the seventh inning to lift the National League to a 3-1 win against the American League in the All-Star game Tuesday night at Angel Stadium, snapping the AL's 13-game winning streak.

"This whole night has been surreal," said McCann, whose two-out hit earned him the game's Most Valuable Player award and secured home-field advantage for the NL champion in the 2010 World Series. "It's something you dream about as a little kid, a moment I'll never forget.

"We're in first place and we're playing great as a team. This night can't get any better."

The only player in Braves history to make the All-Star team in each of his first five seasons, McCann finally got his big moment on the stage of a Midsummer Classic. His first hit in five career All-Star at-bats propelled the NL to its first All-Star win since 1996 in Philadelphia.

"It's been 13 years, and to be on the team that wins the game, that's great," said Braves second baseman Martin Prado, a first-time All-Star.  "For my teammate to be the MVP of the All-Star game, that's awesome. I'm so happy for him."

McCann spent the first half of the game on the bench and ended it as the game's Most Valuable Player. An official from the National Baseball Hall of Fame accompanied McCann to the clubhouse and collected the bat he used on his game-winning hit.

McCann was happy to turn over the black bat, which will be displayed  in Cooperstown, N.Y.

He entered as a pinch-hitter in the fifth and flied out to the warning track with two out and two runners on base. But when McCann came to bat with bases loaded in the seventh, he pulled a pitch to right against White Sox left-hander Matt Thornton, turning a 1-0 deficit to a 3-1 lead.

"I was lucky enough to be put in two situations [with a chance] to help the team tonight,"  McCann said. "I got a pitch up in the zone and I was able to get good wood on it.  Thornton throws 97, 98 miles an hour from the left side. I've faced him a couple of times before.

"He throws so hard from the left side, you've got to get your hands going early and you've got to believe in your hands, and get the head out. And  I was able to do that."

The American League threatened against St. Louis pitcher Adam Wainwright in the bottom of the seventh. John Buck hit a one-out double off the glove of left fielder Matt Holliday, and Ian Kinsler walked.

Wainwright, a former Braves prospect, worked out of the jam by inducing a Vernon Wells grounder and striking out Torii Hunter.

"I'm good friends with McCann," said Wainwright, a native of  St. Simons Island.  "I didn't want to ruin his MVP, man."

He said it was good to see McCann get his opportunity and come through in dramatic fashion.

"I've thrown to McCann in the past when I've gone to Atlanta sometimes, to visit friends. Brian will catch me in the bullpen or whatever," Wainwright said. "He's a very good friend of mine. Georgia boy. We've got Georgia in our blood."

Braves All-Stars  McCann, Prado, Tim Hudson and Omar Infante  mentioned before the game how important it was to win.  Home-field advantage was on the line, and the  Braves have the best record in the National League and best home record (30-10) in the majors.

Prado started the game and went 0-for-3 with two groundouts and a flyout. Hudson and Infante didn't get in the game.

They Braves believe they have as good a chance as anyone to advance to the World Series, where that home-field advantage could end up being mighty big.

"Now that I get to sit back and reflect, I'm extremely excited that we won this game tonight," McCann said. "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."

Phillies slugger Ryan Howard said he was pleased to finally snap the streak, so National Leaguers wouldn't have to answer questions again about why they couldn't win an All-Star game.

Then there was the matter of home-field advantage. If the Phillies make another trip to the World Series, they would be the ones grateful to McCann for securing home-field advantage.

"Obviously now the home-field advantage for the World Series is going to be up for grabs [in the NL]," Howard said. "I think it's going to be kind of Cannonball Run now in the National League, as far as all the teams are concerned.

"But now you just focus on the second half and try to get off to a good start in the second half."

Dominant pitching was the order of the day until Dodgers reliever Hong-Chih Kuo allowed an unearned run in the fifth inning, after walking the leadoff hitter and making an errant throw to first base on the next batter.

Kuo was added to the NL roster Sunday, after Braves closer Billy Wagner turned down an invitation. Wagner wasn't contacted until midnight Saturday, and chose to stay home to rest a sore ankle that's bothered him for a month.

Kuo entered a scoreless game and walked Evan Longoria, the first batter he faced. Joe Mauer followed with a slow roller to the third-base side of the mound, which Kuo fielded with plenty of time to make a good throw to first base.

But the Dodgers lefty uncorked a soft toss that sailed over first baseman Adrian Gonzalez into foul territory. Longoria advanced to third and Mauer to second on the play.

Robinson Cano followed with a sacrifice fly to left field to give the American League a 1-0 lead.

The Braves have shown a penchant for comeback wins all season, and on Tuesday their catcher fueled the NL's late-innings comeback.

The big inning began with consecutive singles by Scott Rolen and Matt Holliday against Yankees pitcher Phil Hughes.

Thornton entered and walked Marlon Byrd to load the bases with two out. That brought McCann to the plate, and he drove an 0-1 pitch to right field to clear the bases.

McCann's parents were in the stands and his wife, Ashley, was back  in Atlanta watching on TV.

"We're expecting our first kid," McCann said "She's in her first trimester. She couldn't make the flight out here. This meant a lot to me. I wish she could have been here; she's been to the last four [All-Star games] with me. But I know she was watching, so it made it special."

The Kuo gaffe interrupted what had been a crisp pitching exhibition by both teams.

Colorado ace Ubaldo Jimenez, who pitched a no-hitter against the Braves this season, got the start for the NL and pitched two innings with two hits and a walk. He was followed by Florida's Josh Johnson, arguably the majors' best starter in the first half.

Johnson worked two perfect innings with two strikeouts and made Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki look bad flailing at a third strike in the third inning. It was only the third strikeout in 28 All-Star plate appearances for the AL batting leader.

In the top of the fifth, McCann pinch-hit with runners on first and third and two out. Facing Detroit flamethrower Justin Verlander, McCann put a charge in a full-count pitch, but his towering fly was caught at the edge of the warning track.

But McCann would get another opportunity, and he wouldn't let it slip away.