KANSAS CITY, Missouri (AP) — Pablo Sandoval and Melky Cabrera keyed a five-run blitz in the first inning that set up the National League's 8-0 win over the American League in Tuesday's All-Star game.
Cabrera homered and won the MVP award, and his San Francisco Giants teammate Matt Cain started a strong pitching performance for the NL in its most-lopsided All-Star victory.
Cain combined with Stephen Strasburg, R.A. Dickey, Aroldis Chapman and the rest of the bullpen on a six-hitter.
Ryan Braun, an All-Star again after his drug suspension was overturned last offseasonr, doubled, tripled and made a fine catch in the outfield to help give the NL its first three-game winning streak in two decades.
Chipper Jones singled in his final All-Star at-bat at age 40 as the NL, under retired manager Tony La Russa, once again claimed a victory that means its team will host Game 7 of the World Series if it goes that far.
Teen sensation Bryce Harper had a shaky All-Star debut. Fellow rookie Mike Trout, only 20, showed off his dynamic skills.
The game was effectively decided a few moments after it started.
Sandoval hit the first bases-loaded triple in All-Star history off Justin Verlander, who couldn't control his fastball. Cabrera singled and scored the first run, then hit a two-run homer against Matt Harrison in a three-run fourth.
"I don't get many triples," said the slow-footed Sandoval, known as Kung Fu Panda. "We had some fun with that in the dugout."
Cabrera was flanked by his mother as he received his award.
"I was surprised for me, the MVP, but thank you the fans," he said.
Rafael Furcal also hit a triple; the first time one side had three in a game.
As the All-Stars returned to Kansas City for the first time since 1973, La Russa bid a fond farewell to the national stage in the city where he played for his first major league team.
Having retired after managing St. Louis to last year's World Series title, La Russa became just the fourth inactive manager to skipper an All-Star team and improved to 4-2.
The NL boosted its advantage to 43-38-2 and won for just the third time in the 10 years the All-Star game has been used to determine home-field advantage in the World Series. La Russa's Cardinals benefited from last year's NL All-Star victory, with St. Louis winning Games 6 and 7 at home against Ron Washington's Texas Rangers.
Jones, retiring at the end of the season, also had one last All-Star moment, pinch hitting in the sixth and singling just past second baseman Ian Kinsler and into right field. Jones chuckled as the ball rolled through.
"Whether you're 19 or 40, we are all equals here," Jones said during his pregame speech to the NL.
Harper, at 19 the youngest position player in All-Star history, had a shaky start when he entered in the fifth. The heralded rookie lost Mike Napoli's routine fly to left in the lights, allowing it to drop behind him for a single. He then caught Kinsler's bases-loaded flyball to end the inning, earning cheers from the crowd of 40,933 at Kauffman Stadium, spruced up by a $250 million renovation that was completed three years ago.
Harper did draw a walk and tagged up on a long fly, but later got himself hung up in a rundown and tagged out.
Trout, among a record five All-Star rookies, had a nice showing against two very different pitchers. The Angels outfielder singled and stole a base against Dickey's knuckleball, then drew a walk against Chapman's fastball.
Cain pitched the 22nd perfect game in big league history last month. He didn't have to be perfect in this one, allowing one hit in two innings for the win.
"For those guys to go out and score five runs in the first inning was definitely a little more relaxing for me," he said. "But I still tried to stay focused."
Verlander had a puzzling outing. In games that count, he hasn't allowed five runs in an inning since April 2010, according to STATS LLC. He became the first to do so in an All-Star game since Roger Clemens in 2004.
"It was pretty difficult for me to get the ball down today," said Verlander, who admitted he approached this differently than a regular-season start.
"But I had fun," he said. "That's why I don't try to throw 100 in the first inning. But this is for the fans. It doesn't usually work out too well for me."
Cabrera singled with one out in the first and scored on a double to deep right by Braun, the reigning NL MVP.
Verlander threw six straight balls during consecutive two-out walks. Sandoval sent a drive off the base of the wall in the right-field corner for a 4-0 lead.
He scored when Dan Uggla grounded to the shortstop hole and first baseman Prince Fielder failed to grasp the one-hop throw, leaving Uggla with an infield hit.
After Furcal tripled to right, Matt Holliday singled for a 6-0 lead and Cabrera followed with a homer.
Dickey pitched a one-hit sixth. Although he has a big league-best 12-1 record, the 37-year-old Dickey was denied the start — possibly because of the difficulty of catching his knuckleball. He brought along an oversized glove from Mets catcher Josh Thole that was used by Carlos Ruiz.
"I really appreciate the warm reception by the fans in Kansas City. Maybe a lot of them have heard my story," Dickey said.
"It was definitely worth the wait," he said.