McCann's breakthrough was years in the making

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ANAHEIM, Calif. --- Bases loaded, two outs, a real chance for the National League to break through after years of waiting.

Brian McCann's three-run double during the seventh inning of Tuesday's All-Star Game rallied the NL to its first victory over the AL since 1996. The Atlanta Braves catcher was named MVP after the game.  Associated Press
Associated Press
Brian McCann's three-run double during the seventh inning of Tuesday's All-Star Game rallied the NL to its first victory over the AL since 1996. The Atlanta Braves catcher was named MVP after the game.

So when Brian McCann lofted a foul fly down the right-field line, there was only one thing to do.

"I just put my head down and prayed that it got into the seats, that I would get another shot," he said.

Luckily for him, the ball landed in the stands, just beyond the reach of scrambling American League fielders. And moments later, he lined a three-run double in the seventh inning that gave the NL a 3-1 victory Tuesday night and made him the All-Star Game MVP.

McCann atoned for his silent showings in the summer showcase -- the Atlanta catcher was 0 for 3 in his previous All-Star trips.

This was McCann's fifth consecutive All-Star appearance, a fact that did not escape Toronto catcher John Buck.

"Catchers know. He can bang. He can flat-out rake, and the reason he doesn't get noticed very much is because he's that good of a catcher," said Buck, who got a hit for the AL. "Good catchers don't get noticed. That's the job, and he's just out there every year, getting it done and being one of the best in the game."

In a way, McCann's hit was more than a decade in the making. He was a year away from turning into a teenager the last time his side beat the American League in 1996, leaving many to wonder how long the drought would go.

"We've had to answer that question for the last five times for me," McCann said.

McCann got a chance to do some damage in the fifth when he pinch hit with runners on the corners. He flied out to the warning track against Justin Verlander to end the inning, leaving the NL down 1-0.

Next time up, he got even and then some. After lifting that harmless foul ball, the lefty-swinging McCann delivered against Chicago White Sox left-hander Matt Thornton.

McCann swung his arm in celebration after pulling into second base, and NL players in the dugout surged to greet the trio of runners that scored.

NL manager Charlie Manuel, of Philadelphia, figured something good might happen. He's seen McCann plenty during the regular season.

"Absolutely kills us," Manuel said.

Manuel turned to his coaches, telling them he wanted Thornton to try to blow a heater past McCann.

"I said I hope he keeps the ball down and hard, because this guy can light him up. He threw him a low fastball, and he clocked him."

Cheering right along with Manuel, for sure, were McCann's parents. They were in the ballpark while his pregnant wife was watching back home in Georgia.

"Today was big. And home-field advantage for the World Series is big," McCann said.

His Braves certainly appreciated his contribution. They come out of the All-Star break with a four-game lead in the NL East.

The 26-year-old McCann, hitting .267 with 10 home runs and 37 RBI this season, became the second Atlanta player to win the All-Star MVP trophy, joining Fred McGriff, who got it in 1994.

Afterward, he gave his bat to the Hall of Fame.


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