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Good game, bad ending for Baker07/16/2003 1:18 AM ET
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- Dusty Baker has seen his Chicago Cubs lose games in the late innings in recent weeks. Unfortunately for him, the National League All-Stars looked like the Cubs on Tuesday night.
Hank Blalock hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning to power the American League to a 7-6 victory over Baker and the National League team to win the All-Star Game at U.S. Cellular Field.
"How it ended is not exactly how I wished for the National League," Baker said. "But it is what it is. And these guys are playing hard no matter what was at stake.
"We realize and recognize what was put on us and the stakes that were there," Baker said, "But these guys, I'm sure they would have played the same way if it was a pick-up sandlot game someplace. These guys have a lot of pride and a lot of ability, and they work hard day in and day out to get where they are."
Baker had earned the right to manage the National League team after leading the San Francisco Giants to the World Series last year, only to lose to Anaheim in seven games. Baker left the Giants after the season and joined the Cubs in November.
Still, he had a souvenir from his Giants days. Baker wore his National League championship ring in the game.
Baker gave the players a pep talk and slapped high fives when he was introduced. Chewing non-stop on his trademark toothpick, Baker even argued with home plate umpire Tim McClelland in the fifth.
The National League had runners at first and second when pinch-hitter Andruw Jones smacked a ball to left. A fan leaned over the railing and interfered with the ball, and Jones was awarded a ground rule double. At first, only one run scored but Baker argued and the second runner scored to take a 4-1 lead. American League manager Mike Scioscia said he never remembered seeing a manager argue a call in an All-Star Game.
"These guys are competitors even in Spring Training," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said of Baker and Scioscia. "Neither one of them wants to lose."
Albert Pujols added a RBI single and the five-run fifth was the biggest in an All-Star Game since the American League scored seven in the third inning of the 1983 game played at old Comiskey Park.
The winner of Tuesday's game determined home-field advantage for the World Series but Baker and many of the National League players scoffed at the notion that in years past, they weren't playing as if the games counted.
"It's a nice idea, try, what have you, but the bottom line is the game is always played with severe pride and you can't say anything other than that today," Atlanta's John Smoltz said.
"You're going to throw different," Smoltz said. "You're not going to face this lineup in any situation ever again. In the regular season, you always have a guy you can pitch around. This is a loaded lineup. You're going to think different, you're going to pitch different. Home field advantage had absolutely nothing to do with it."
And, Smoltz said, there was nothing different that Baker could've done. Baker had his bullpen set up so Billy Wagner, Eric Gagne and John Smoltz were set up for the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.
"Last year, messed everyone up," Smoltz said of the 2002 game that ended in a 7-7 tie. "Hopefully, people remember the All-Star Game rather than all the things that surround it."
"The quality of play was excellent," Baker said of Tuesday's contest. "You could tell in batting practice, the guys' approaches to hitting. You could tell the pitchers, you could tell how Scioscia used his pitchers and how I used mine. It was a well-played game."
Baker enjoyed the experience -- and how he'll get one day off before returning to the Cubs and the second half of the season.
"America got their money's worth," Baker said. "I'm not crazy about the outcome (of the game) even though it was a game to watch and a great game to manage."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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