-- One league has more money to throw around, better hitters, better pitchers, better teams and a nearly decade-long streak of dominance in interleague play.

The other just won the All-Star game for the third year in a row. So much for inferiority complexes.

"You've got to tip your hat to the National League again," American League manager Ron Washington said.

He's just hoping Tuesday night's 8-0 beating wasn't another omen. The NL wins in the 2010 and 2011 Midsummer Classics locked up home-field advantage in the World Series for the Giants and Cardinals. Both went on to beat Washington's Texas Rangers in the fall.

"They came out, swung the bats, and once they got the lead, started bringing those arms in ..." Washington added glumly, "and they got the job done."

With hindsight it's a lot easier to argue why one team of millionaires appeared more motivated than the other in an exhibition game only a few players on either side were wild about attending.

The four San Francisco starters who played important roles in helping the NL crack the game open early arrived in Kansas City a few days ago trailed by echoes their fans had stuffed the ballot box – which they apparently had. If that bothered Pablo Sandoval or Melky Cabrera, neither let on. Giants catcher Buster Posey arrived as the NL's all-time leading vote-getter and tried not to act embarrassed. Right-hander Matt Cain, whose 10 first-half wins included a perfect game and made him a plenty legitimate choice to start, had to dodge questions about why NL manager Tony La Russa chose him over the Mets' R.A. Dickey.

And then there was Milwaukee's Ryan Braun. The NL's reigning MVP is on something resembling a "vindication tour." Coming off a career year in 2011, the 28-year-old Braun spent much of the offseason defending himself – first after testing positive for a banned substance and then, after his suspension was overturned, against the charge that he beat the rap on a technicality. Asked ahead of the game whether his explosive first-half performance was proof that performance-enhancers played no part in his climb, Braun coolly answered yes. Then he went out and played like an All-Star yet again. He doubled, tripled and turned in a pair of nifty defensive plays, including one against former teammate Prince Fielder.

While Cain was stifling an AL lineup that resembled the first round of a fantasy draft, Braun and his Giants teammates collected five runs off AL starter Justin Verlander in the first, then put the game effectively out of reach in the fourth – with some assistance from Cardinals Rafael Furcal and Matt Holliday – by pounding Matt Harrison for another three runs.

Afterward, Washington still seemed surprised by Verlander's decision to begin the game throwing heat. The manager couldn't find too many nice things to say about the strategy, so he said almost nothing at all.

"Well, it's very disappointing, because we're competitors and we want to win," Washington said.

The Tigers' ace had an explanation ready. Verlander said he usually doesn't register triple digits on the radar gun until well into a game, but decided to try early in this one to give the fans a show.

"Obviously, you don't want to go out like that, but I had fun," Verlander said. "That's why I don't try to throw 100 (mph) in the first inning, but this is for the fans. It doesn't usually work out too well for me.

"I know this game means something and you don't want to give up runs, but we're here for the fans," he repeated a moment later. "I know the fans don't want to see me throw 90 and try to hit the corners."

One glance at the steadily declining TV ratings makes you wonder how much the fans really want to see. Last year's game in Phoenix was the lowest-rated ever, continuing a trend Commissioner Bud Selig hoped to avert by putting home-field advantage in the World Series at stake.

Then again, this one had more appeal than a few recent games. Familiar faces like Derek Jeter and Chipper Jones, at 40 playing in his eighth and final All-Star game, mingled with the fresh ones belonging to the next generation of stars, kids like Bryce Harper and Mike Trout. Fox showcased new hire Erin Andrews and trotted out a promotional campaign reminding us of the game's old-time virtues: "When we see the boys of summer actually be boys."

That may have been true about a few too many of the guys on the American League bench, at least for this one night. La Russa took some heat a day earlier – including in this space – for his decision to start Cain over fan favorite Dickey, a 37-year-old journeyman whose first All-Star appearance came after a long struggle to master the knuckleball. Apparently, that nasty little competitive streak grew wide enough to make a big difference.

___

Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org and follow him at Twitter.com/JimLitke.

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  • A military aircraft flies over the stadium during the national anthem before the All-Star baseball game Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • George Brett

    George Brett throws a ceremonial first pitch before the MLB All-Star baseball game, Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

  • Justin Verlander

    American League's Justin Verlander, of the Detroit Tigers, reacts after allowing a run by National League's Melky Cabrera, of the San Francisco Giants, in the first inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game, Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

  • A Kansas City Royals waits for the start of the All-Star baseball game Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Yu Darvish

    American League's Yu Darvish, of the Texas Rangers, waves before the start of the MLB All-Star baseball game, Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Justin Verlander, Carlos Gonzalez,

    National League's Carlos Gonzalez, of the Colorado Rockies, loses his bat as he swings on a pitch by American League's Justin Verlander, of the Detroit Tigers, in the first inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game, Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

  • Billy Butler

    American League's Billy Butler, of the Kansas City Royals, waves as he is introduced before the start of the MLB All-Star baseball game, Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Derek Jeter, Ron Washington

    American League's Derek Jeter, right, of the New York Yankees, and manager Ron Washington, of the Texas Rangers, shake hands before the All-Star baseball game Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Ron Washington, Tony La Russa

    American League manager Ron Washington, left, of the Texas Rangers, and National League manager Tony La Russa shake hands before the start of the MLB All-Star baseball game, Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Adrian Beltre

    American League's Adrian Beltre, of the Texas Rangers, is introduced before the All-Star baseball game Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Justin Verlander

    American League's Justin Verlander, of the Detroit Tigers, misses a grounder from National League's Rafael Furcal, of the St. Louis Cardinals, in the first inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game, Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. Furcal hit into a force out to end the inning. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

  • Justin Verlander, Pablo Sandoval

    National League's Pablo Sandoval, of the San Francisco Giants, hits a three-run triple on a pitch by American League's Justin Verlander, of the Detroit Tigers, in the first inning the MLB All-Star baseball game Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

  • Justin Verlander

    American League's Justin Verlander, of the Detroit Tigers, walks next to catcher Mike Napoli, of the Texas Rangers, after giving up runs in the first inning of the All-Star baseball game Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Justin Verlander

    American League's Justin Verlander, of the Detroit Tigers, delivers against the National League during the first inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game, Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

  • Matt Cain

    National League's Matt Cain, of the San Francisco Giants, pitches during the first inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

  • Matt Cain

    National League's Matt Cain, of the San Francisco Giants, delivers against the American League during first inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game, Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

  • Jose Bautista

    American League's Jose Bautista, of the Toronto Blue Jays, catches a fly ball hit by National League's Ryan Braun, of the Milwaukee Brewers, during the second inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game, Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Prince Fielder

    American League's Prince Fielder, of the Detroit Tigers, catches a ball hit by National League's Carlos Gonzalez, of the Colorado Rockies, during the second inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game, Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

  • Joe Nathan

    American League's Joe Nathan, of the Texas Rangers, delivers during second inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

  • David Price

    American League's David Price, of the Tampa Bay Rays, delivers against the National League during the second inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game, Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Adrian Beltre

    American League's Adrian Beltre, of the Texas Rangers, throws to first for the out on National League's Joey Votto, of the Cincinnati Reds, during the third inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Gio Gonzalez

    National League's Gio Gonzalez, of the Washington Nationals, delivers against the American League during third inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game, Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Matt Holliday

    National League's Matt Holliday, of the St. Louis Cardinals, hits an RBI single during the fourth inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game, Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. Rafael Furcal, of the St. Louis Cardinals, scored on the hit. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Rafael Furcal

    National League's Rafael Furcal, of the St. Louis Cardinals, hits a triple in the fourth inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game against the American League, Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

  • Curtis Granderson

    American League's Curtis Granderson, of the New York Yankees, throws a ball to fans after catching a fly ball in the fourth inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game, Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

  • Stephen Strasburg

    National League's Stephen Strasburg, of the Washington Nationals, delivers during the fifth inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game, Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

  • Clayton Kershaw

    National League's Clayton Kershaw, of the Los Angeles Dodgers, delivers against the American League during the fifth inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game, Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • David Ortiz

    American League's David Ortiz, of the Boston Red Sox, jokes with fans during the fifth inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game against the National League, Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

  • Mike Napoli

    American League's Mike Napoli, of the Texas Rangers, hits a single during the fifth inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game, Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Clayton Kershaw

    National League pitcher Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts after the fifth inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game, Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

  • Chipper Jones

    National League's Chipper Jones, of the Atlanta Braves, waves to the crowds during the sixth inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game against the American League, Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

  • Chipper Jones

    National League's Chipper Jones, of the Atlanta Braves, singles during the sixth inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game against the American League, Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

  • Chipper Jones

    National League's Chipper Jones, of the Atlanta Braves, laughs as he singles during the sixth inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game against the American League, Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

  • R.A. Dickey

    National League's R.A. Dickey, of the New York Mets, delivers against the American League during the sixth inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game, Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

  • Chris Sale

    American League's Chris Sale, of the Chicago White Sox, delivers against the National League during the sixth inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game, Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

  • Mike Trout

    American League's Mike Trout, of the Los Angeles Angels, hits a single during the sixth inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

  • Mike Trout, National League's Jose Altuve

    American League's Mike Trout, of the Los Angeles Angels, steals second base against National League's Jose Altuve, of the Houston Astros, during the sixth inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game, Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

  • Cole Hamels

    National League's Cole Hamels, of the Philadelphia Phillies, delivers against the American League during seventh inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game, Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Ryan Cook

    American League's Ryan Cook, of the Oakland Athletics, pitches during the seventh inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game, Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

  • Aroldis Chapman

    National League' pitcher Aroldis Chapman, of the Cincinnati Reds, delivers during eighth inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Jim Johnson

    American League pitcher Jim Johnson, of the Baltimore Orioles, works during the eighth inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

  • Craig Kimbrel

    National League pitcher Craig Kimbrel, of the Atlanta Braves, delivers during eighth inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

  • Aroldis Chapman

    National League pitcher Aroldis Chapman, of the Cincinnati Reds, smiles after striking out American League's Mark Trumbo, of the Los Angeles Angels, to end the eighth inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

  • Joe Mauer

    American League's Joe Mauer, of the Minnesota Twins, singles in the ninth inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game, Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. The National League won 8-0. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

  • Pablo Sandoval

    National League's Pablo Sandoval, of the San Francisco Giants, right, celebrates with teammates after their 8-0 win over the American League in the MLB All-Star baseball game, Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

  • Jose Altuve, Joe Mauer

    National League second baseman Jose Altuve, of the Houston Astros, forces out American League's Joe Mauer, of the Minnesota Twins, on a ground ball by Elvis Andrus, of the Texas Rangers, during the ninth inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. Andrus was safe at first. The National League won 8-0. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Joel Hanrahan

    National League's Joel Hanrahan, of the Pittsburgh Pirates, delivers against the American League during the ninth inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game, Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. The National League won 8-0. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

  • Carlos Ruiz, Jonathan Papelbon

    National League's Jonathan Papelbon, of the Philadelphia Phillies, and Carlos Ruiz, of the Phillies, celebrate their 8-0 win over the American League after the MLB All-Star baseball game, Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

  • Melky Cabrera

    National League's Melky Cabrera of the San Francisco Giants shows off his MVP trophy after the MLB All-Star baseball game against the American League All-Stars Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. National League won 8-0. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)