Senior Baseball Columnist

Melky, Panda lead National League to Giant results in All-Star Game


The Giants' Matt Cain pitches two innings and yields a single hit against the AL's finest. (US Presswire)  
The Giants' Matt Cain pitches two innings and yields a single hit against the AL's finest. (US Presswire)  

KANSAS CITY -- If Bruce Bochy and Matt Cain get this kind of offensive production, the Giants win the NL West in a runaway later this summer.

Whack! Thwack! Crack! That was MVP Melky Cabrera and Pablo Sandoval chopping down big, bad Justin Verlander and his little buddy Matt Harrison in the 83rd All-Star Game.

Whoosh! That was Buster Posey drawing a key first-inning walk (and calling all the right pitches for Matt Cain).

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Clomp! Clomp! Clomp! That was Sandoval plowing around the bases for a three-run triple, for crying out loud.

Anybody for a recount now regarding San Francisco's stuffed ballot boxes and scattered chads?

The American Leaguers lost their right to voice an opinion in taking an 8-0 horse-whipping in front of 40,933 in Kauffman Stadium on a gorgeous, Midwestern summer's evening.

The National Leaguers sure weren't squawking as they departed Billy Butler-town, er, Kansas City, late Tuesday night after winning a third consecutive Midsummer Classic. They were making their home-field World Series reservations.

"Whoever ends up in the World Series [from the NL] should thank everybody in Giants Nation," Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun said. "They all contributed. Buster Posey, wherever he goes he calls shutouts. Melky, Panda, Matt Cain threw two shutout innings.

"It was a great night for the Giants."

The Mets' David Wright deserved to start at third over Kung Fu Panda? Sure he did ... but Panda started the rout by belting a Verlander curve for the bases-loaded triple in the first, then scoring to make it 5-0.

R.A. Dickey should have started over Cain? Debatable ... but Cain easily out-dueled the higher-profile Verlander by holding the AL to one hit over two scoreless innings.

"They definitely put their bats where everybody's mouths were," Cain said of his teammates in as succinct a summary as anybody offered on this blowout night.

It was smashmouth baseball. Were there referees instead of umpires, they would have called it a TKO in the first inning.

Verlander was scheduled to go two innings. He lasted one. Closer Joe Nathan took Verlander's second inning as a way of bridging the gap to Tampa Bay's David Price, who was scheduled to work the third.

When was the last time anybody saw Nathan in the second? That's as much a non-sequitur as Kansas City and fish tacos.

"I don't think he's ever pitched a second inning in his life," said Twins catcher Joe Mauer, who worked with Nathan all of those years in Minnesota.

That's how upside-down and inside-out this game became.

It started with the retiring Chipper Jones delivering a rousing, personalized version of a Win One for the Gipper speech inside the NL clubhouse.

"I don't want to stand up here and get all gooey-eyed in front of the young pups," Jones said. "They might think I've gone soft."

His basic message to his junior teammates was this: Enjoy yourselves. Every minute of this event. You never know when you'll get another chance to be here.

"Then we jumped on the defending AL Cy Young winner for five runs in the first," Jones said, still trying to wrap his Atlanta tomahawk around his last blast of an All-Star experience. "I don't think the guy had given up five runs in the first half.

"That was amazing."

Cabrera, the game's MVP, finished 2 for 3 with a home run, two RBI and two runs scored. Sandoval was 1 for 2 with three RBI and one run scored. Between them, they accounted for seven of the NL's eight runs.

Jones' speech was the final launching point. But oh, you Giant voters, you were the wind beneath their wings, you sentimental fools.

"We've got passionate fans, you know?" Posey said. "I don't think that's a negative in any way.

"I think we were all just excited to play. It was my first All-Star Game and I was starting, Melky, Pablo, Cain made the start ... we were all really excited."

Everybody's favorite moment seemed to be Panda's gallop around the bases during the first inning triple. There's a reason Barry Zito didn't nickname him "Cheetah."

"You don't expect him to get a triple," Posey said.

"It's always fun to watch Pablo run," Cain said.

"Love it," Jones said. "What a great personality. He's a really good kid. He's got a good head on his shoulders. I'm happy for all of these guys."

While Sandoval is a cult hero in San Francisco, Cabrera is still saying hello after Giants general manager Brian Sabean acquired him for pitcher Jonathan Sanchez last November. He's developing his own cult following, with a group of guys in costume calling themselves "Melk-men" roaming the outfield stands at AT&T Park. And recently, some pretty little "Melk-maids" have begun dressing up, too.

"Melky had a great game," said Mauer, who knows him well from Cabrera's days with the Yankees and Royals. "He's a great player, and I think everybody's starting to realize it."

An All-Star MVP award will speed up that process, if Cabrera's first-half numbers won't. And they should. He leads the majors with 119 hits at the break, leads the NL with 39 multi-hit games and is tied for second in the NL with seven triples.

So much for those who wrote him off as a one-hit wonder in Kansas City last season when he posted a .305 batting average, .391 on-base percentage, 18 homers and 87 RBI.

"I didn't come to win an MVP," Cabrera said. "That's just a surprise. It's a great gift that the Lord gave me.

"But the same opportunity Kansas City gave me last year is the same opportunity that San Francisco is giving me every day to showcase my talent.

"Again, I'm just very thankful to the fans that voted for me to come here."

Him and the NL's World Series entrant come October. Don't forget to send flowers, boys. Word is, in San Francisco, they even wear them in their hair.


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