KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Pablo Sandoval hit the first bases-loaded triple in All-Star game history and the National League raced out to a 5-0 lead against Justin Verlander and the American League through three innings Tuesday night.
The portly San Francisco third baseman delivered the big blow during a five-run first inning against Verlander, the reigning AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner. Verlander ended up allowing four hits and two walks while throwing 35 pitches in his only inning.
Ryan Braun and Dan Uggla also drove in runs for the NL team during the biggest first inning since 2004, when the AL scored six times off Roger Clemens before his hometown fans in Houston.
The start couldn't have been much better for the National League, which was trying to earn home-field advantage in the World Series for the third straight year.
The reward sure came in handy last season, when the Cardinals rallied to win the final two games against the Texas Rangers at Busch Stadium to capture their 11th championship. The team with home-field advantage has won three straight World Series, and six of the last nine.
Tony La Russa certainly enjoyed watching his guys circle the bases Tuesday night.
The former Cardinals manager retired after last year's World Series, but was asked to call the shots for the NL team one more time. He had vowed all week to manage the game to win.
Verlander was coming off two complete games in his last three starts, and had only allowed seven runs in the first inning all season. But after striking out Carlos Gonzalez to start the game, the Detroit Tigers' ace immediately ran into trouble, giving up a single to Melky Cabrera and an RBI double to Braun.
Verlander recovered to strike out Joey Votto, but walked Carlos Beltran and Buster Posey — the latter on four pitches. Sandoval came to the plate with the bases loaded and hammered a curve off the right-field wall, driving in three runs with his first triple of 2012.
Uggla followed with an RBI single to deep shortstop to give the NL a 5-0 lead.
Verlander was replaced by Joe Nathan in the second inning, an embarrassing way to leave his fifth All-Star game. Verlander had allowed five earned runs in a start only once all season, and hadn't given up five runs in any inning since April 11, 2010, against the Indians.
He'd been good at Kauffman Stadium, too, going 9-2 with a 1.83 ERA in his career.
NL starter Matt Cain had no such problems.
The three-time All-Star worked around a single by Derek Jeter in the first inning, then set the American League down in order in the second. Cain gave way to the bullpen in the third, making it a successful debut for the Giants' ace in the annual summer showcase.
Cain was hurt in 2009 and didn't enter the game last season.