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Dodgers Can't Save the NL From Itself

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Though the futility of the National League continued last night, with a down-to-the-wire 5-4 loss to the American League, three Dodgers contributed in their own ways during the 78th mostly annual Mid-Season diversion.

During the pre-game introductions, everyone in San Francisco and, by extension, everyone watching, knew where the Dodgers were by the waves of boos that greeted Brad Penny, Takashi Saito, and Russell Martin. Though I would have returned the favor, had Barry Bonds been introduced at an All-Star Game in Los Angeles (not of Anaheim), it was heartening to hear the rivalry is still loud and clear.

Martin started the game and played a six solid innings. Though he went 0 for 3, Martin saved a run in the bottom of the 3rd when he tagged out Alex Rodriguez to end the inning. Ken Griffey Jr. threw to the Dodger catcher, who was forced to make a tricky catch on the rightfielder's awkward, in-between hop. Martin tagged out Rodriguez as the Damn Yankee lumbered towards home plate. At the time, it kept the NL ahead, but the lead would be short lived.

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Brad Penny came in to relieve fellow NL West All-Star Jake Peavy in the 2nd inning. Penny threw just 7 pitches in what turned out to be the most economical inning of the night for any pitcher. He even received the coveted and, unofficial, "Chevy, Ford, 7/11, Budweiser, Fox, Wall Street Journal, Fastest NL Pitch" award as one of his fastballs stormed home plate at a recorded 96 MPH. Saito pitched a scoreless 7th, retiring the side in order on 13 pitches.

Neither pitcher seemed to tire out, which is welcome news considering Penny's scorching appearance last year at the All Star game, when he struck out the first three batters of the game, registering 99 MPH on many of those punch outs. Some say that might have contributed to his ice-cold second half, but really, as it turns out, it was his delivery that caused his 2006 second-half avalanche.

The NL has not won an All-Star Game since 1996. Before 2003, no one really cared about who won or lost as long as everyone had a swell time. Players would go back to their primary job, namely trying to win games for their own teams. On the heels of the exasperating 2002 All-Star game, though, in which a tie was declared because no players were left to play the game, Major League Baseball instituted a new rule whereby the winner of the game would receive home-field advantage during the World Series. Really, the move is nothing but a cheap trick to coerce viewers into caring about an altogether meaningless game. It's just one more thing in a long line of gimmicky and cowardly moves that have largely defined the tenure of Commissioner Allan Huber "Bud" Selig, Jr.

I digress. As a Dodger fan, there were many reasons to smile. The 2007 All Star Game featured the most amount of Dodger's since 1998. Russell Martin made a great play, Brady Penny and Takashi Saito pitched very well and the Dodgers are poised to make a run at the NL West crown. Also, they can continue to relax up North as they begin a three-game series with the Giants in San Francisco on Friday.

I will clear my vocal chords.

Photos by Jeremy Oberstein for LAist