Point/counterpoint: Which team will win baseball’s All-Star Game tonight?

BY DI STAFF | JULY 12, 2011 7:20 AM

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American League

The major-league All-Star Game boasts plenty of talent on each side, but the American League will win run away with the win and the resulting home-field advantage in the World Series.

From top to bottom, the AL roster is loaded with big names. Baseball’s top two home-run hitters, Toronto’s Joe Bautista (31 dingers) and New York’s Curtis Granderson (25), call the AL East home.

The pair also leads the majors in runs scored; Granderson has crossed the plate 79 times and Bautista has come around 73 times.

The AL East is also represented by Boston slugger Adrian Gonzalez, who leads the majors in hits (128), runs batted in (77), and batting average (tied for first with .354).

If you need more proof of the AL’s offensive advantage, look no further than the starting lineup. The team has so much firepower that Boston’s David Ortiz, who has revitalized his career and is hitting .304 with 19 homers, will bat in the seventh spot — a place usually reserved for offensively mediocre shortstops.

The American League doesn’t just have offense, either. The AL has a solid number of young, dynamic pitching talent as well. Los Angeles’ Jered Weaver will bring his major-league-leading 1.86 ERA and 11-4 record to the hill to start the game, and he will be backed up by such hurlers as Seattle’s Felix Hernandez (140 strikeouts), Boston’s Josh Beckett (2.27 ERA), and Oakland’s Gio Gonzalez (2.47 ERA and 111 strikeouts).

The National League will present a stiff challenge, of course — any game featuring Prince Fielder and Roy Halladay on the same team will be fascinating — but the AL’s incredible depth up and down its roster means the Junior Circuit will take home the All-Star title for the eighth time in nine years.

— by Sam Odeyemi

National League

The All-Star game has been defined by one league or the other dominating for years at a time.

From the first mid-summer classic in 1933 to 1949, the American League won 12 of 16.

For about the next four decades, the National League was routinely the victor — it won 33 times during that stretch.

Then it was back to the American League, who won 12 of the 13 All-Star games from 1997-2009.

Notice a trend?

The NL finally came through last year with a 3-1 victory, and it will officially make it a streak tonight when they beat the AL in Arizona.

Last year’s score is an important indicator of how the Senior Circuit will win this year’s contest — with pitching.

The NL is going to have the pitching needed to shutdown the AL’s high-powered bats.

Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and a cast of others will mow down AL hitters with relative ease.

Lee has been the hottest pitcher in all of baseball over the last two months or so. He’s 7-2 with a 2.06 ERA during that stretch, including three-straight complete-game shutouts.

The Philadelphia lefty won two of his three starts against AL teams during interleague action, and his most impressive performance came in Boston with a two-hit shutout against baseball’s best offense.

And, after personally seeing him manhandle St. Louis a couple weeks ago, there’s no way I’d bet against his capabilities.

Lee and Halladay could quickly shorten the game, turning it into a four or five-inning affair. With four of baseball’s top six save leaders on their side — the other two are in the NL also, but didn’t make the All-Star roster — the late innings won’t be an issue for manager Bruce Bochy.

Meanwhile, the AL will be without arguably two of its best pitchers — C.C. Sabathia and Justin Verlander are both ineligible after pitching in real games on Sunday.

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig’s “This time it counts” baby will soon grow into lasting World Series home-field advantage for the NL.

— by Ben Schuff

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