Prince Fielder's three-run homer sailed over the left-field wall, and the conveyor belt from the National League bullpen began. One after another, a hard-throwing pitcher entered the game and shut down the American League's hitters for the second successive year.
With pitching, speed and a little power from Fielder, the NL is king of the All-Star Game once again. Roy Halladay combined with nine relievers on a six-hitter in the National League's 5-1 victory on Tuesday night in Phoenix, giving the senior circuit its first two-game winning streak since the mid-1990s.
The final pitcher, Brian Wilson, got two outs for Bruce Bochy, the National League manager, and earned the save, just as he did for the San Francisco Giants coach when they won the World Series last November.
"It felt like a little bit like last year when you come into a pressure situation and you try to do a clutch performance as you can," Wilson said.
The victory gave the NL home-field advantage again in this year's World Series, and Fielder won the MVP award after becoming the first Milwaukee Brewers player to homer in an All-Star Game. The World Series edge could help him later - the Brewers are in contention for the play-offs, tied for the NL Central lead at the break.
Fielder, son of the former all-star Cecil Fielder, was booed during the Home Run Derby a day earlier. He was the NL captain for the Derby, and local fans were angry he did not select Arizona's Justin Upton.
"I didn't take it personal at all," Fielder said. "I understood it. No hard feelings."
The American League's only run came on Adrian Gonzalez's homer in the fourth off Cliff Lee. Fielder connected in the bottom half of the inning.
The NL added two more runs when Andre Ethier singled in a run off Jordan Walden in the fifth inning, and Pablo Sandoval had an RBI double off Brandon League in the seventh.
"I think when you look at the ballgame, the bottom line is the National League pitching was outstanding," Ron Washington, the AL manager, said. "You know, we ended up giving up one big inning and they didn't give up any."
The game was played before a crowd of 47,994 that included Muhammad Ali, and reflected the regular season trend of low-scoring games. Scoring in the first half of the season dropped to its lowest level in 19 years and the major league batting average shrunk to its smallest mid-season figure since 1985.
Halladay retired six straight batters - the first to do that in an All-Star Game since Roger Clemens in 2001. Lee got out his first five and both showed the strength that has given Philadelphia the best record in the majors.
"I figured a lot of those guys were going to be swinging early," said Halladay, who started for the AL in 2009 and joined Vida Blue, Clemens and Randy Johnson as the only pitchers to open for both leagues.
Injuries, minor ones by all accounts, to Boston pitcher Josh Beckett and Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera, didn't help the AL cause. Beckett warmed up and was going to follow starter Jered Weaver but shut down because he didn't quite feel right.
Cabrera left with slight oblique soreness and said as he made a quick exit from the ballpark that he didn't think it would keep him out when regular season play resumes.
The AL had 12 wins with one tie in the 13 seasons leading up to last year's 3-1 loss. Weaver joked maybe he was to blame, since he switched leagues when the AL troubles began.
"Maybe I'm the bad link here," he said, "but we had a great line-up. Those guys on the National League have some great arms and they kept us off balance. What are you going to do? You win some, you lose some. Obviously we would have liked to win this one."
Beckett's absence added to a pitching staff, that already was missing Boston's Beckett, Detroit's Justin Verlander, Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia, Tampa Bay's James Shields and Seattle's Felix Hernandez because they started for their teams on Sunday.
"We had to make an adjustment, and that's exactly what the game is about," Washington said. "But we were able to get some pitching out there, so we are not going to use not having Josh as an excuse." Beckett pitched five innings in his last start against Baltimore on Friday after he slightly hyperextended his knee on the wet mound at Fenway Park.
"I could have pitched. I'm just not comfortable going out there and getting hurt in an All-Star Game and costing myself starts in the second half," Beckett said. "I think that's how everybody should be. This game does mean a lot with home-field advantage and everything but at the same time there are some things that are ahead that are a little more important."
Pitchers don't score runs, anyway. They don't even bat in this game. And offence was a big problem.
The Rangers' Josh Hamilton said the problem is pretty basic.
"The biggest thing is you get guys on base," he said, "then you get a hit with guys on base."
Boston's Kevin Youkilis said the NL simply "has a lot of great players". He said: "They've got great pitching and great hitting and you never know what's going to happen. That's what makes these things kind of fun."
He shrugged off the prospect of the Red Sox facing a road disadvantage should they reach the World Series.
"I've got the philosophy that we've got to win on the road anyway," he said.