By Steve Ginsburg
KANSAS CITY (Reuters) - The National League erupted for five runs in the first inning and limited the American League to just six singles to win the All-Star game 8-0 on Tuesday, the first shutout in the Midsummer Classic since 1996.
A 382-foot, two-run homer by San Francisco Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera and a three-run triple by his Giants team mate Pablo Sandoval highlighted the N.L. attack.
Cabrera, who finished with two hits in three at-bats with a home run, two RBIs and two runs scored, was named the game's Most Valuable Player.
"I didn't come to win an MVP," said Cabrera, whose 119 hits this season leads the majors. "That's just a surprise. It's a great gift that the Lord gave me."
To cap an extraordinary night for the Giants, N.L. starter Matt Cain, who surrendered two hits in two innings, got the win. He was one of 11 pitchers to silence the potent A.L. bats.
The N.L. battered starter Justin Verlander in the top of the first on a run-scoring double by Ryan Braun, Sandoval's game-turning triple that stayed just inside the foul pole and an RBI infield single by Dan Uggla.
Verlander threw 35 pitches, surrendering four hits and two walks in his only inning of work and was tagged with the loss.
"It's very disappointing, because we're competitors and we want to win," said A.L. manager Ron Washington of the Texas Rangers. "But I think you've got to tip your hat to the National League.
"They came out, they swung the bats, once they got the lead, started bringing those arms in, they got the job done."
The N.L's first-inning fireworks sapped the enthusiasm from the crowd of 40,933 on a 90-degree (32c) night inside 39-year-old Kauffman Stadium.
An RBI single by Matt Holliday and Cabrera's shot into the left-field bullpen off Texas's Matt Harrison hiked the N.L.'s lead to 8-0 in the fourth.
The A.L's best chance to get back into the game occurred in the fifth but Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler flied out to left with the bases loaded to end the threat.
"They scored and the pitching came in and did the rest," said Washington. "And in this game, if you can pitch, you've got a chance. And they can pitch. They did tonight, anyway."
In the last three All-Star games, all won by the N.L., the A.L. has managed to score a total of two runs. It was the first shutout in an All-Star game since the N.L. won 6-0 in 1996 at Philadelphia.
The National League's victory gives them the home-field advantage in the World Series, a bonus not lost on the St. Louis Cardinals, who won Game Seven of the Fall Classic a year ago on their home turf against the Texas Rangers.
N.L. manager Tony La Russa won the World Series with the Cardinals last October and then retired. He said he was "aware" during the game Tuesday it would be the last time he would wear a uniform and he made sure to savor the occasion.
"You just get wrapped up like you usually do in trying to win the game," he said. "It consumes you... It rarely happens where you can enjoy the moment. And I enjoyed it."
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)