KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Pablo Sandoval and Melky Cabrera turned the All-Star game into a Giant blowout.Flashing their bright orange spikes and booming bats, the San Francisco sluggers keyed a five-run blitz against Justin Verlander in the first inning that sent the National League to an 8-0 romp over the American League on Tuesday night.Cabrera homered and won the MVP award, and Giants teammate Matt Cain started a strong pitching performance for the NL in its most-lopsided All-Star victory. Cain combined with Stephen Strasburg, R.A. Dickey, Aroldis Chapman and the rest of a lights-out staff on a six-hitter.San Francisco Giants show,'' Matt Kemp of the rival Dodgers said during the game.Ryan Braun, an All-Star again after his drug suspension was overturned last winter, doubled, tripled and made a fine catch in the outfield to help give the NL its first three-game winning streak in two decades.Chipper Jones singled in his final All-Star at-bat at age 40 as the NL, under retired manager Tony La Russa, once again claimed home-field advantage in the World Series.Teen sensation Bryce Harper had a shaky All-Star debut. Fellow rookie Mike Trout, only 20, showed off his dynamic skills.The game was pretty much decided a few moments after it started.Sandoval hit the first bases-loaded triple in All-Star history off Verlander, who couldn't control his 100 mph heat. Cabrera singled and scored the first run, then hit a two-run homer against Matt Harrison in a three-run fourth.I don't get many triples,'' said the slow-footed Sandoval, known as Kung Fu Panda. We had some fun with that in the dugout.''Cabrera was flanked by his mom as he received his award.I was surprised for me, the MVP, but thank you, the fans,'' he said.San Francisco fans, who made a late voting push to elect Sandoval and Cabrera to starting spots, might really appreciate the victory come October. The Giants are a half-game behind the first-place Dodgers in the NL West.Rafael Furcal also hit a three-bagger, making the NL the first league with three in an All-Star game.As the All-Stars returned to Kansas City for the first time since 1973, La Russa bid a fond farewell to the national stage in the city where he played for his first major league team.Having retired after managing St. Louis to last year's World Series title, La Russa became just the fourth inactive manager to skipper an All-Star team and improved to 4-2.Just lucky, like I've been 30 years,'' La Russa said.The NL boosted its advantage to 43-38-2 and won for just the third time in the 10 years the All-Star game has been used to determine home-field advantage in the World Series. La Russa's Cardinals benefited from last year's NL All-Star victory, with St. Louis winning Games 6 and 7 at home against Ron Washington's Texas Rangers.It's very disappointing, because we're competitors and we want to win,'' said Washington, who lost for the second straight year. They came out. They swung the bats. Once they got the lead, started bringing those arms in their hand, and they got the job done.''Jones, retiring at the end of the season, also had one last All-Star moment, pinch hitting in the sixth and singling just past second baseman Ian Kinsler and into right field. Jones chuckled as the ball rolled through.Whether you're 19 or 40, we are all equals here,'' Jones said during his pregame speech to the NL.Harper, at 19 the youngest position player in All-Star history, had a shaky start when he entered in the fifth. The heralded rookie, wearing shiny gold shoes, didn't flash a Gold Glove and lost Mike Napoli's routine fly to left in the lights, allowing it to drop behind him for a single. He then caught Kinsler's bases-loaded flyball to end the inning, earning cheers from the crowd of 40,933 at Kauffman Stadium, spruced up by a 250 million renovation that was completed three years ago.Harper did draw a walk and tagged up on a long fly, but later got himself hung up in a rundown and tagged out.Trout, among a record five All-Star rookies, had a nice showing against two very different pitchers. The Angels outfielder singled and stole a base against Dickey's knuckleball, then drew a walk against Chapman and his 101 mph heat.I'm going to remember this the rest of my life,'' Trout said.Cain pitched the 22nd perfect game in big league history last month. He didn't have to be perfect in this one, allowing one hit in two innings for the win.For those guys to go out and score five runs in the first inning was definitely a little more relaxing for me,'' he said. But I still tried to stay focused.''Cain was followed by 10 relievers, with Jonathan Papelbon getting the last out with a runner on third base.Verlander had a puzzling outing. In games that count, he hasn't allowed five runs in an inning since April 2010, according to STATS LLC. He became the first All-Star to give up a five-spot since Houston's Roger Clemens in front of his hometown fans in 2004.It was pretty difficult for me to get the ball down today,'' said Verlander, who admitted he approached this differently than a regular-season start.In a 35-pitch inning, he threw five pitches clocked at 100 mph and another at 101.But I had fun,'' he said. That's why I don't try to throw 100 in the first inning. But this is for the fans. It doesn't usually work out too well for me.''A crowd clad in red, white and blue T-shirts cheered during pregame introductions for hometown star Billy Butler, who dropped his cap when he tried to wave it. Fans booed the New York Yankees' Robinson Cano, who angered local fans when he bypassed Butler for Monday night's Home Run Derby.Not since Game 7 of Kansas City's 1985 World Series over the Cardinals had the baseball world descended on the Royals' ballpark, a rare 1970s beauty known for its 322-foot-wide fountain in right and the 105-foot-high scoreboard topped by a crown.Cabrera, a former Yankee and Royal, singled with one out in the first and scored on a double to deep right by Braun, the reigning NL MVP.Verlander threw six straight balls during consecutive two-out walks to Carlos Beltran and Buster Posey. Wearing shiny gold-and-orange spikes for the occasion, Sandoval sent a drive off the base of the wall in the right-field corner for a 4-0 lead.He scored when Dan Uggla grounded to the shortstop hole and first baseman Prince Fielder failed to come up with Derek Jeter's one-hop throw, leaving Uggla with an infield hit.After Furcal tripled to right, pinch-hitter Matt Holliday singled for a 6-0 lead and Cabrera followed with a drive into the left-field bullpen.Dickey, a first-time All-Star at 37, was given a big ovation. He pitched a one-hit sixth, hitting Paul Konerko on a shoulder with pitch.Although he has a big league-best 12-1 record, Dickey was denied the start - possibly because of the difficulty of catching his knuckler. He brought along an oversized glove from Mets catcher Josh Thole that was used by Carlos Ruiz, who replaced Posey behind the plate in the sixth.I really appreciate the warm reception by the fans in Kansas City. Maybe a lot of them have heard my story,'' Dickey said.It was definitely worth the wait,'' he said.NOTES: The NL extended the AL's scoreless streak to 14 innings - its longest drought since 1995-97. ... The NL won for just the sixth time in a quarter-century. ... The NL had last won three straight in 1994-96. ... It was the first All-Star shutout since the NL's 6-0 win in 1996 at Philadelphia.
Each Monday through the Final Four, our own Robbie Buckets -- known in some circles as Rob Snyder, associate producer at CSN -- will take a look at the world of college basketball: Games to watch each week, players who might be on the Celtics' radar come draft time, what's going on locally . . . and, of course, power rankings (which will eventually morph into bracketology). Enjoy!
After a Saturday for the ages came and went this past weekend, it's clear offensive efficiency is ruling the college basketball world. Villanova, UCLA, Creighton, Indiana, UNC, Kentucky, and a slew of other teams are shooting the lights out early in the season. In a rare switch, offensive efficiency is proving more valuable than defensive efficiency early on this year. We aren't used to seeing shooting quite like this, but it makes for great basketball watching. We also have some surprise teams making big moves in the rankings, and I'm sure the shake-ups will keep coming week-by-week with no slowing down.
1. Villanova (8-0) - The defending champs spent a nice week destroying fellow Big 5 teams. On top of that, the Wildcats watched Kentucky fall (more on that later), which moves them up to the top spot. I can make a great case for the two teams behind them to be ahead, but I'll reward a defending champion going undefeated every day of the week.
2. Baylor (8-0) - SURPRISE! The Bears just keep on winning against really good competition. Scott Drew's club has now beaten four top 25 teams in Oregon, Michigan State, Louisville and, most recently, Xavier. (I understand it's likely two of those teams won't be ranked this week, but they're still really good.) This is the most impressive early season resume in a long time.
3. UCLA (9-0) - It's one thing to put up massive offensive numbers against lowly competition. It's a completely different thing when you go into Rupp Arena and put up 97 points against Kentucky. Lonzo Ball had a rough go in the first half but he was helped by fellow freshman T.J. Leaf, who is absolutely balling.
4. Kentucky (7-1) - I'm keeping the Wildcats right here because I still saw a lot I liked in the loss to UCLA. Mainly, I think De'Aaron Fox and Malik Monk make up the best backcourt in the country. This team still has so much room to grow.
5. Kansas (7-1) - Shockingly, Kansas has decided to go with a small, four-guard lineup as of late. The Jayhawks have benched Landen Lucas and it's working having Lagerald Vick join Graham, Mason and Jackson in the backcourt. I applaud Bill Self for the outside-the-box thinking.
6. Duke (8-1) - Great to finally see the Blue Devils get some of their freshman back, albeit against Maine. The Dukies will probably shoot further up the power rankings next week as they get their fresh legs under them. As of now, I'm still slightly underwhelmed by the overall product (which is being harsh), but I love what I'm seeing from Luke Kennard who -- shhhhhhh -- is a better overall player than Grayson Allen.
7. Gonzaga (8-0) - They haven't missed a beat, putting away frisky Arizona on Saturday. The Dogs are now on cruise control and have a real shot at being the last undefeated team standing this season.
8. Creighton (8-0) - Speaking of undefeated, the Bluejays of Omaha are maybe the hottest offensive team in the country, led by three of the best guards in all of college basketball. (They may even be better than Kentucky's backcourt.) Creighton will be a force in the Big East this year.
9. Indiana (7-1) - The hardest thing about doing rankings is Jekyll-and-Hyde teams like the Hoosiers. What can you say about a team that beat Kansas, lost to Fort Wayne, and then rebounded with a win over North Carolina? You rank them 9. That's what you do.
10. North Carolina (7-1) - Speaking of North Carolina, last week I thought the Tar Heels were the hottest team in college hoops and now they're licking their wounds after being beaten pretty good by Indiana. They're still extremely well-rounded, and should still be in the Top 5 conversation later in the year.
11. Virginia (7-1) - For the first time in years, the Cavaliers lost a home non-conference game. The slugfest with West Virginia went as expected as the two unique defenses went at each other. Hard to drop UVA too far, as they still boast the nation's second-best defense.
12. Butler (8-0) - Hard to believe we're into December and still have three undefeated Big East teams and none of them are Xavier. Butler has looked really balanced this year in wins over Arizona and Utah. I would still like to see more scoring from the guards.
13. Louisville (7-1) - The Cardinals successfully rebounded from a not-bad-at-all loss to Baylor and took down Purdue in a game they tried very hard to lose. Louisville's biggest issue is offensive consistency, which has grinded to a halt at times this season. Defensively, however, there are no issues.
14. Xavier (7-1) - Hey, look, it's another team that lost to Baylor. The loss isn't necessarily bad, but the way X is playing hasn't been totally solid. They're getting almost all of their offense from three players, and their depth hasn't been great. They will still be a really good team, but are starting to look less like a dark horse Final Four team.
15. West Virginia (6-1) - What a win for WVU in Charlottesville. Huggy Bear's press continues to give opponents problems and keeps the Mountaineers in games even when they aren't hitting their shots. They were 25th in the AP poll last week, but are now No. 9 in kenpom. Expect a move once the pollsters read this column.
Providence - What a week for the Friars. They took out previously ranked in-state rivals Rhode Island and are now 6-2 with a quality win. Rodney Bullock is carrying the scoring load, and I have to say I'm very surprised by the development of Kyron Cartwright. His ball-handling and passing have been phenomenal. Ed Cooley is doing wonders with this group..
Rhode Island - Speaking of the Rams, they'll be just fine. A true road loss (albeit still in-state) is nothing to worry about. Now they'll hope Providence becomes a Top 50, or at the very least Top 100, RPI team, and the loss won't even look bad. What Rhody does need to worry about is finding a way to beat good teams. They now have three losses -- to Duke, Valpo (road), and Providence (road). They do have a quality win over a very good Cincinnati team, so they'll just need to take care of conference play and find a way to get a little more from their bench.
WHAT TO WATCH THIS WEEK
- Tuesday December 6: Florida vs Duke (at Madison Square Garden)
- Saturday December 10: Villanova vs Notre Dame (Prudential Center); Michigan at UCLA
POTENTIAL FUTURE CELTICS TO WATCH
Jayson Tatum - Duke finally has a couple of its freshman back, and this is the guy to watch. I was pumped about him prior to the season because he's a 6-foot-7 wing player who does everything effortlessly. Tatum had 10 points and 8 rebounds in his opener despite being very rusty. It's only up from here.
De'Aaron Fox - Kentucky's point guard is the real deal and is so fun to watch. He's a 6-6 bean stalk, so he doesn't necessarily look like a point guard . . . until you see him pass. Fox can also get to the rim and play suffocating 'D'. He's still working on his jump shot, but it's coming along. NBA teams will drool over this guy.
Follow me on Twitter @RobbieBuckets for college hoops musings and off-the-cuff sports takes.
Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while fully getting in the holiday spirit by getting the family Christmas tree this week.
*Very good and very sobering story about Craig Cunningham’s slow recovery, and his large support system with the AHL Roadrunners team he is captaining this season. It sounds like it might be a bit of a long road for him, so he and his family will need that support from those around him.
*Tyler Seguin has his shot back, and that’s great news for the Dallas Stars power play. So is that like Stella getting her groove back?
*A KHL player went into a sliding dab formation in order to celebrate a goal on the ice, and we salute him for that.
*The Maple Leafs are trying to fortify their backup goaltending situation after waiving Jhonas Enroth this week.
*Interesting Bob McKenzie piece about a young man that’s hoping to challenge conventional thinking in the hockey coaching ranks.
*TSN’s Scott Cullen takes a look at Winnipeg rookie Patrik Laine’s shooting skills as part of his “Statistically Speaking” column.
*For something completely different: the hits just keep on coming for Netflix as they’re going to double their TV series output over the next year.