KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Game in a nutshell: Who says the National League's lineup can't stack up to the American League's thunder? The Senior Circuit sure looked dominant in the top of the first inning tonight against perhaps the best pitcher on the planet, piling up five runs off Justin Verlander. Ryan Braun sent an RBI double off the right-field wall, then Pablo Sandoval(?!) legged out a three-run triple off the reigning AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner. A Dan Uggla RBI single capped off the five-run inning, and the NL still wasn't done. A three-run fourth off the Rangers' Matt Harrison (highlighted by Melky Cabrera's homer to left) made it 8-0 and gave the NL pitching staff plenty of cushion. Not that those guys needed any help. They mowed through the AL's fearsome lineup, with 11 pitches combining to toss a six-hit shutout. Nationals Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg each churned out one inning of relief to help the cause. Teammate Bryce Harper certainly made his presence known, though for more negative reasons than positive ones (see below). In the end, the NL happily took an lopsided victory. Which means Game 1 of this year's World Series cannot take place at Yankee Stadium, but it could take place at Nationals Park.
Harper highlight: He noted yesterday how awful he's been in previous All-Star games as an amateur or minor leaguer, and Harper continued that trend in his big-league All-Star debut. The 19-year-old did draw a walk in his first at-bat and showed off his hustle by tagging up from first base on a deep fly ball to left. But he was immediately caught in a rundown off second base, and he later suffered one of the more embarrassing moments in All-Star history when he lost a routine fly ball in the lights. Harper threw his arms out, clueless where the ball was, only to have it land 10 feet behind him. He also struck out on three pitches against A's rookie Ryan Cook. All in all, not a shining moment for the youngest position player in All-Star history.
Strasburg highlight: Handed the ball for the bottom of the fourth inning with his team up eight runs, Strasburg went to work against four of the most fearsome hitters he'll ever face in succession: Robinson Cano, Josh Hamilton, Jose Bautista and Prince Fielder. The flamethrower's stuff was good -- he fired in several 98 mph fastballs and a 90 mph changeup -- but his command was less than perfect. Strasburg gave up a leadoff single to Cano, got Hamilton to ground into a double play, then thought he had Bautista looking at a 3-2 curveball on the inside corner. Plate umpire Gerry Davis thought otherwise, so Strasburg had to face Fielder with two outs and a man on. Prince roped a drive to deep left field, but Ryan Braun made a nifty catch to end the inning and end Strasburg's All-Star debut with a scoreless inning in the books.
Gonzalez highlight: There was no drama to Gonzalez's one inning of work. The lefty entered for the bottom of the third and cruised through a 1-2-3 frame, showing off a 95 mph fastball and his trademark curve. That Uncle Charlie got Mike Napoli swinging for a strikeout. Gonzalez then got Curtis Granderson to fly out to left and Derek Jeter to ground out to second, completing a very efficient and very effective inning in the lefty's second All-Star appearance.
Up next: The Nationals' three All-Star participants get to spend a couple of days at home with family and friends. Then they'll rejoin their teammates Friday night in Miami for the season's second-half opener against the Marlins. Look for Drew Storen to make his season debut as well, assuming all goes well in his final rehab appearance Wednesday night.