His manager, Charlie Manuel, and a handful of teammates were there, looking on, knowing in their bones that he was about to deliver.
"For sure," said leftfielder Raul Ibanez. "I've seen him do it so many times."
"I thought he had a bead on it," said Jayson Werth.
This time, the storybook ending didn't materialize. Howard struck out against Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon and the American League hung on to win, 4-3, and will once again have the homefield advantage in the World Series.
"I just tried to go up there and drop the head of the bat on the ball," he said. "I fouled off a few. I was just trying to win the game. That's the game of baseball. Sometimes it happens that way."
Tampa Bay's Carl Crawford was voted the game's Most Valuable Player, largely on the basis of a nice catch at the wall to rob Colorado's Brad Hawpe of a home run in the seventh.
The National League hasn't won the All-Star Game since it was played at Veterans Stadium in 1996.
This was the fourth straight year the AL has won by a run, and the reason it did last night was pretty simply. The NL managed just five hits. At one point, 18 straight hitters were retired on just 48 pitches.
"I felt like we hit the ball better than five hits," Manuel said. "The whole game was centered around pitching and they have some horses."
The deciding run scored in the top of the eighth off San Diego's Heath Bell and, unless he's traded to a contender, that's probably not going to matter to him one way or the other.
Detroit's Curtis Granderson tripled with one out. Manuel, running the National League squad, had catcher Victor Martinez walked intentionally to set up a potential inning-ending doubleplay. But Adam Jones delivered a sacrifice fly instead to drive in the deciding run.
Joe Nathan and Mariano Rivera shut down the NL in the last two innings to preserve the win.
Before the first pitch, both managers, Manuel and Joe Maddon from the American, spoke at length, and with apparent passion, about agreeing with the often-mocked decision to award homefield advantage in the World Series to the winner of the All-Star Game. They solemnly explained how important that can be.
The reality, though, is that compromises are always made.
For example, the New York Daily News reported yesterday that the Mets had telegraphed Manuel that they would prefer that ace lefthander Johan Santana not pitch last night. And that Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee, serving on Manuel's staff, was quoted as saying that they would make every effort to accommodate the request. That's despite the fact that Santana hasn't pitched since last Saturday and isn't scheduled to work again until the Mets' third game after the break.
Not using one of baseball's best pitchers for an inning when he's going to have a week between starts isn't going all out to win.
Of course, Manuel also took care of his own player. Ibanez, who just returned from the disabled list last weekend, got two at-bats (groundout, popup) then came out of the game.
The only Phillies representative who had much of an impact was centerfielder Shane Victorino, who made a good throw in the top of the first when the American League scored two runs and then got a hit and, with his speed, helped manufacture a run in the bottom of the second as the NL took the lead.
With two outs in the bottom of the second, David Wright and Victorino singled against AL starter Roy Halladay. Yadier Molina singled up the middle. Victorino, instead of stopping at second, made the turn and raced for third, drawing a throw from Josh Hamilton that bounced away, allowing him to score on the error.
"At first I was thinking, 'Should I go?' Then I thought I'd go for it, force the issue. And the throw hit me in the back and I was able to scamper home," Victorino said."
The other Phillies starter, second baseman Chase Utley, also went hitless in two at-bats, but made a nice play to force Ichiro at second in the fifth. That didn't prevent the AL from scoring the tying run before the inning was over, however, on an RBI double by Joe Mauer.
Werth replaced Victorino in center in the seventh and struck out against Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon in the bottom of the inning. In the top of the ninth he made a nice running catch in the gap to rob Justin Morneau of extra bases. *