Rangers' first-half success carries into All-Star Game
By Jesse Sanchez / MLB.com
Alfonso Soriano earned the MVP Award after homering and driving in three runs. (Getty Images)
HOUSTON -- Rangers second baseman Alfonso Soriano gave the fans of the American League one more reason to like him in Tuesday's All-Star Game at Minute Maid Park.
Or three, if you count each RBI.
In the first inning, Soriano -- selected as the All-Star MVP -- hit a three-run home run off Houston starter and former Yankees teammate Roger Clemens to put the AL up, 6-0. Soriano's home run, the second hit and second homer of his career in an All-Star Game, traveled 343 feet and capped off the six-run inning to give the AL a comfortable lead in a game they won, 9-4.
He finished 2-for-3 with three RBIs and one run scored.
"I felt a little sorry because he's been nice to me all of the time," Soriano said of Clemens. "But you know, I had to do my job in the game. I am sorry, but you know, I am happy right now."
His homer came one day after the second baseman was honored with an award from MLB.com and Ameriquest after leading all Major League players with 3,466,447 votes for the All-Star Game. He also set an online record with 3,056,277 votes at MLB.com.
Soriano took home the hardware, but he did not do it alone.
In the first, former Rangers catcher Ivan Rodriguez drove home Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki for the AL's first run. Rodriguez eventually scored on a home run by Boston's Manny Ramirez to left field for a 3-0 AL lead.
Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi reached on an error and teammate Derek Jeter singled to right field to set up Soriano's homer and put him on track to his first All-Star Game MVP Award.
In the third inning, in his second at-bat of the game, Soriano singled to left field off Randy Johnson, just past the outstretched arm of Cardinals shortstop Edgar Renteria, to load the bases for Royals first baseman Ken Harvey. Soriano would not advance.
In the fifth, Soriano struck out swinging in his third at-bat, on a fastball by Florida's Carl Pavano, and teammate Michael Young followed by reaching on a fielder's choice in his first career All-Star at-bat.
Young joined Soriano on the field in the bottom half of the frame in place of Jeter to complete an all-Rangers middle infield and wasted little time impressing the crowd.
With one out in the frame, he fielded a ground ball up the middle by Florida's Miguel Cabrera on the run, then completed the play with a nifty pirouette and throw for the second out.
Michael Young / SS
Weight: 190 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
"This was great," Young said. "I don't take for granted the fact that I was able to get out there and play today. I was every excited Mr. Torre put me in the game. I had a chance to get a couple at-bats, and I got a chance to make a play in the field. I had a blast."
Hank Blalock made his first appearance of the game -- pinch-hitting for Alex Rodriguez -- with one out in the sixth, and grounded out to second base on a 2-1 pitch from Pavano.
"I'm so happy for Sori," Blalock said. "That's another great thing for our organization after the first half of the season. To be in first place, and have Sori be the MVP is just awesome. We have to keep it going in the second half."
Blalock took over at third, but Cleveland's Ronnie Belliard replaced Soriano in the bottom half of the frame preventing the Rangers trio from being on the field at the same time.
Young grounded out to first base in his second at-bat before eventually yielding to Baltimore shortstop Miguel Tejada.
"I got to play with Sori and Hank, and I really enjoyed myself," Young said. "It really makes me want to come back every year and capitalize on these opportunities."
In a rematch of last year's All-Star Game in Chicago, Blalock squared off against Dodgers closer Eric Gagne in the ninth inning and flied out to left field on the first pitch. Blalock hit a home run to put the AL ahead by one run in last year's win.
"It was completely different. The situation of the game was completely different because we were up by five runs," Blalock said. "I still tried to hit the ball hard, but I pulled up a little bit and hit it off the end to pop up."
Neither pitchers Francisco Cordero or Kenny Rogers, who is nursing a sore hamstring, saw action Tuesday.
"How can I be disappointed? We won the game and Sori was named the MVP, and we are in first place," Cordero said. "I had talked to them about it before. I am not disappointed at all."
Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.