Sunday, July 12, 2009
World rallies in rain-shortened game
ST. LOUIS -- Rene Tosoni waited out the rain and went home with an MVP award.
Tosoni and Dayan Viciedo hit consecutive RBI doubles to cap a four-run comeback that carried the World team past the United States 7-5 on Sunday in a Futures Game that provided a soggy start to All-Star festivities at Busch Stadium.
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"You talk about why this is such a great baseball town and as you saw, even with a 4-hour rain delay, the majority of the people stayed," said Cardinals Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith, who managed the U.S. squad. "It's a very special place."
Baseball's annual showcase for top minor league talent was interrupted for 4 hours, 9 minutes in the first inning by a heavy storm that rolled through the ballpark, darkening skies and briefly cloaking the famous Gateway Arch beyond center field.
Because of the delay, the game was shortened to seven innings.
When play finally resumed, Colorado's Eric Young hit a solo homer and Houston's Jason Castro added a three-run shot that gave the U.S. a 5-3 lead going into the seventh. But with three outs remaining, the World team rallied against losing pitcher Trevor Reckling of the Los Angeles Angels.
Milwaukee's Brett Lawrie led off with a double and went to third on an infield single by Starlin Castro of the Chicago Cubs. Lawrie scored on a wild pitch that sent Castro to second, and one out later Oakland second baseman Jemile Weeks made a costly mistake.
Milwaukee's Alcides Escobar hit a humpback liner up the middle that was grabbed by Weeks on one hop behind second. With no chance to make a balanced throw, Weeks tried to flip the ball with his glove to shortstop Danny Espinosa -- an ill-advised attempt.
Tyson Gillies celebrates after the World team won its third straight Futures Game, becoming the first squad to do so in 11 years.
The toss went awry and the ball trickled away on the infield, allowing Castro to score the tying run.
"It's a play we work on in the A's organization," Weeks said. "I think maybe I might have tossed it too hard."
Tosoni, a Minnesota Twins outfield prospect from Canada, came up as a pinch hitter to face Pittsburgh right-hander Brad Lincoln. Tosoni hit a hard one-hopper that deflected off first baseman Chris Carter and down the right-field line for a go-ahead double.
"I'm usually an everyday player. It's been a while since I got to pinch hit," Tosoni said. "I wanted to get in, especially coming all the way over here."
Viciedo, a Cuban defector playing third base in the Chicago White Sox system, followed with a well-struck double to right that made it 7-5.
"I felt overwhelmed by the moment. It was a huge hit. I will always treasure this ocassion," Viciedo said. "I know my family and friends were watching in Cuba and I know I gave them joy."
Astros reliever Chia-Jen Lo worked a hitless inning for the win and Cincinnati's J.C. Sulbaran got three outs for a save.
With one swing, Tosoni earned an MVP award previously won by Alfonso Soriano, Jose Reyes, Grady Sizemore and Aaron Hill. The World team won its third straight Futures Game, becoming the first squad to do so in the event's 11-year history.
Afterward, Tosoni was covered with shaving cream, courtesy of World teammate Luis Durango of the San Diego Padres.
Looking to break up the boredom during the long delay, Lincoln played frisbee in the outfield with fellow U.S. pitchers Kyle Drabek and Mat Latos.
Drabek, a Philadelphia prospect and the son of 1990 NL Cy Young Award winner Doug Drabek, pitched a perfect second inning.
Other players had big league family ties, too. Young's father is former infielder Eric Young. Weeks' brother is Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks.
Boston's Junichi Tazawa had been slated to start for the World team but was scratched after the delay. The right-hander had finished warming up before the downpour, so Red Sox assistant general manager Jed Hoyer, who was at the ballpark, called World team manager Jose Oquendo and requested that Tazawa not pitch.
"Everyone is playing right now. I'm the only one who can't play, so I'm very disappointed," Tazawa said through a translator during the game.
Texas righty Neftali Feliz got the ball instead and was impressive, striking out two in one scoreless inning.
More than 50 Futures Game alumni have developed into major league All-Stars. Pablo Sandoval, Elvis Andrus and Andrew McCutchen are among the youngsters from last year's game who have already made an impact as big league regulars this season.
"It's the elite of the elite," said Pittsburgh's Pedro Alvarez, the No. 2 overall draft pick in 2008.
Alvarez had an RBI single for the United States.