Tony La Russa doesn't take home-field advantage lightly. He believes the 2004 World Series might have ended differently if it had started at Busch Stadium rather than Fenway Park.
"Would we have done better?" La Russa asked. "Yeah. Had we started in St. Louis, we might have lost in five [games]."
But until the National League does something about its losing streak in the All-Star Game, La Russa's St. Louis Cardinals and their brethren will continue to open the World Series on the road.
The American League spotted the National League a superior hitter, with the rules enabling La Russa to start Albert Pujols as his designated hitter, and still cruised to a 7-5 victory.
A crowd of 41,617 watched as Miguel Tejada and Ichiro Suzuki helped the AL score against three of the first four NL pitchers. Tejada's leadoff homer in the second off John Smoltz and Suzuki's two-run double in the fourth off Livan Hernandez were the game's biggest hits.
White Sox left-hander Mark Buehrle, the AL's starter, was the winning pitcher after working two scoreless innings.
"Outstanding," Buehrle said. "Just to get this chance, to be able to start, it was great. I have to credit our offense for coming out hitting and the bullpen pitchers for keeping the lead."
Tejada, who also drove in a run with a groundout, was named the Most Valuable Player.
Beaten down a generation ago, the AL now owns baseball's big events. It is unbeaten in the last nine All-Star games, with the winning streak interrupted only by the 2002 tie, and beginning with the 1988 game in Cincinnati is 14-3-1. It is 3-0 with home-field advantage on the line.
"Definitely the exhibition atmosphere, attitude towards the game is gone," said Terry Francona, the Boston manager in charge of the AL team. "I think if we forget who is getting home-field advantage, it's a big mistake."
The recent All-Star Star success has carried over to October. AL teams have won five of the last seven World Series, with the exceptions coming in seven-game Series in 2001 and 2003.
If the first half of the season is an indication, the White Sox could be the AL team that enjoys the advantage earned Tuesday.
"That's a good feeling," right-hander Jon Garland said. "We have to do our part, make the playoffs and then take it one step at a time."
Buehrle and Garland, who combined for 23 victories in the Sox's 57-29 first half, were among five AL pitchers who kept the NL scoreless until Andruw Jones' two-run homer in the seventh inning.
Buehrle, who got a chance to start because Toronto's Roy Halladay got hurt in his last start of the first half, gave up three hits but helped himself out with three strikeouts. His most memorable was probably the cut fastball he threw past the Cubs' Derrek Lee to end the first inning. Lee was uncharacteristically late on the swing.
"I finally got him out," Buehrle said. "I think it's the first time I've ever gotten him out. He had owned me."
Garland held the NL scoreless in the sixth inning even though his lack of control prompted a quick visit from Boston pitching coach Dave Wallace. He got Carlos Lee and Derrek Lee for the first two outs, then walked Moises Alou and Aramis Ramirez to bring Wallace out of the dugout.
"He said, 'I don't know what to say to you,"' Garland said. "He just came out to give me a little breather."
Wallace's visit paid off. Garland escaped the inning by getting Miguel Cabrera to hit a grounder to shortstop Michael Young.
Derrek Lee, who was elected to start over Pujols, and Ramirez, who started because Scott Rolen decided to rest his shoulder, had two of the NL's 11 hits.
Lee jerked one of his patented doubles into the left-field corner against Minnesota lefty Johan Santana, the reigning Cy Young winner. It came as he was leading off the fourth inning but Santana didn't allow him to score. He walked Jim Edmonds but then got Ramirez, who had singled with no one on in the second, to hit into a double play.
Suzuki's two-run single to right gave the AL a 5-0 lead in the fourth inning. It climbed to 7-0 when Texas' Mark Teixeira, who had not homered against a left-hander all season, hit a two-run homer into the right-field stands off Florida's Dontrelle Willis in the sixth inning.
The NL scored two in the seventh, one in the eighth and then two more in the ninth but never got the tying run to the plate. Mariano Rivera blew away Houston's Morgan Ensberg to earn a three-pitch save.
"We understand that we haven't won in a long time," La Russa said. "But, you know, we had a real good group, some first-timers, they hadn't lost before. I thought there were a lot of winning players in that clubhouse."
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