SAN DIEGO -- No matter the names, the AL dominates the All-Star Game in the 21st Century and starts the World Series at home.
Back in 2003, when a "This Time It Counts" sign was put up in right at Chicago's U.S. Cellular Field, the stars included Roger Clemens and Hank Blalock. This year, the key names were baseball Royalty: Eric Hosmer and Salvador Perez.
And because they came up big Tuesday night, Kansas City would open the World Series at home again if it wins a third straight AL pennant — a big if.
"It just brings that sense of comfort to the team and gives you a jump-start for the whole Series," Hosmer said after homering, driving in two runs and earning the MVP Award in the American League's 4-2 win over the Nationals.
The Game 1 Series host has won six of the last seven titles and 24 of the last 30.
"I would have loved to have that seventh game last year in San Francisco," manager Dusty Baker said in 2003, thinking back to when his Giants lost Game 7 at Anaheim the previous fall.
Home teams have taken a 2-0 Series lead in six of the last 13 years. No visiting team has won the first two games since the 1999 New York Yankees, who swept Atlanta.
"Hopefully this is something we can all rally upon for the second half and find a way to use that home-field advantage," Hosmer said
Hosmer and Perez homered in a six-pitch span, and the Kansas City duo drove in all the AL's runs. The defending World Series champion Royals are languishing at 45-43, seven games off the AL Central lead and in the middle of the wild-card race.
Before the game, Royals manager Ned Yost told the AL team of the importance of earning home-field.
"We don't know who is going to be in the World Series. We don't know who is going to be representing the American League, but we know how much that home-field advantage helped us," Hosmer recalled his manager saying.
The AL cut its deficit to 43-42 with two ties — including the infamous 7-7, 11-inning game at Milwaukee in 2002 that sparked baseball officials to link Series home field to the All-Stars the following year.
After two decades of NL domination starting in the early 1960s — 20 wins in 21 games — the AL has nearly caught up. The NL's scoring lead is just 360-359.
Even the three NL players who became All-Star MVPs in the last 13 years now play for the AL — Prince Fielder, Brian McCann and Melky Cabrera.
Of course, home-field isn't everything. Speaking in 2005, then-Cardinals manager Tony La Russa thought back to Boston's Series sweep the previous year.
"I think that if we had started the series in St. Louis," he said, "maybe we would have lost in five."