Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Atlanta's Brain McCann Gives NL First Win in 13 Years

Players of the Day for Tuesday, July 13, 2010 ALL STAR GAME When Atlanta catcher Brian McCann stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and his National League team down 1-0 in the 7th inning, there was no thought of pinch-hitting for the all star reserve by manager Charlie Manuel. McCann was one of just two catchers on the team, and the fan selection, Yadier Molina, was already done for the night as McCann replaced him in the 5th, flying out to right field in his first at-bat. Now, with a chance to end the National League's lengthy losing streak to the American League - they hadn't won since 1996 - McCann was either going to be the man of the hour or just another footnote in the annals of National League frustration. There were two outs. The inning would either be extended or ended on his at-bat. Scott Rolen and Matt Holliday had already singled in the inning, and, after a walk to Chicago's Marlon Byrd, there was no place to put McCann for reliever Matt Thornton, on the mound in relief of Phil Hughes. On a 0-1 count, McCann got a pitch he could handle, about waist high, and drilled it down the right field line, clearing the bases, with Byrd motoring all the way from first base with the third run. All of a sudden, there was hope, and maybe a smattering of joy in National League cities around the country, as McCann came through with the most important hit - a two-out double - in over a decade. That McCann was even in the game to begin with was something of a fluke. There simply aren't that many good catchers in either league. Starter Molina's stats were barely better than McCann's, who entered the game batting .267, with 10 homers and 37 RBI, but his 3-RBI double earned him MVP honors and a warm place in the heart of many a National League fan. With the 3-1 victory, the eventual National League champion will have home field advantage in this year's World Series.

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