MLB All-Stars cruise to third straight in Taiwan
Nats' Morse paces offense with home run and run-scoring double
TAICHUNG, Taiwan -- The Major League All-Stars gripped their bats a little tighter and sweated pitch calls a little bit more in a nail-biter of a game on Thursday night, but a new day brought a new result.
On Friday night at Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium, the stifling arms and big bats of MLB asserted their dominance early and cruised to a 6-2 victory over the Chinese Taipei national team in front of another sellout crowd.
Nationals slugger Michael Morse had a monstrous solo home run to center field and an RBI double, Robinson Cano had two hits, and Ryan Roberts, Logan Morrison and Emilio Bonifacio added RBI hits. On the mound, the tag team of starter Felipe Paulino and relievers Collin Balester, Jose Veras, Phil Coke and Mark Melancon held a pesky, disciplined Chinese Taipei offense down the rest of the way to improve the MLB All-Stars' record in this series to 3-0.
"It's always nice to get that run support," MLB All-Star manager Bruce Bochy said. "I'll say this -- I thought they really battled back against us very well. They showed a lot of heart tonight. I tip my cap to how hard they were fighting to get back into the game."
The MLB All-Stars now head to the city of Kaohsiung for Games 4 and 5, to be played at Chengcing Lake Stadium. The final two games of the series will air on MLB.TV and MLB Network at 5 p.m. ET on Saturday and at 9 p.m. ET on Sunday.
On Friday night, MLB didn't waste much time knocking the ball around the park. Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson and his teammate in the Bronx, second baseman Cano, strung together singles, setting up Morse for the first big blow of the night, a two-base hit that gave MLB its first run.
The second run came when the next batter, Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval, hit an RBI fielder's choice after Cano had advanced to third.
MLB scored another in the top of the second when Twins catcher Drew Butera hit a two-out double and Bonifacio singled him in, but Chinese Taipei proved as gritty as it has been all week, scoring a run in the bottom of that inning when Kuan-Wei Yang singled and moved to second on a walk to Wang-Wei Lin, and Yin-Lun Lan's single loaded the bases. Fu-Lin Kuo's sacrifice fly cut the lead to 2-1, before Paulino got out of the jam by inducing a flyout off the bat of Pu-Ting Hsiao.
"I thought it was a pretty good game," Chinese Taipei manager Wei-Chen Chen said through an interpreter. "I think our starting pitcher did pretty well. I like how the team is trying hard to win a ballgame, and I hope they keep trying hard in the next two games."
The All-Stars scored another run in the top of the third on Morse's homer, a blast off Chinese Taipei starter Kai-Wen Cheng that easily cleared the center-field wall high above the 400-foot sign, and all of a sudden it was 4-1.
"They've been keeping the balls down in the zone," Morse said. "The one ball I did hit, I think it was a slider, and he left it up a little bit. I think a lot of us are chasing a lot of balls down in the zone, maybe in the dirt, but we're just trying to showcase our talents and have good at-bats and show the people of Taiwan a good time."
A three-hit fifth added two runs on an RBI double by Roberts and an RBI hit by Morrison, and the relief crew took care of the damage control the rest of the way, although Chinese Taipei scored another run, to the delight of the crowd, on an eighth-inning RBI double by Yang.
Melancon, the Houston Astros' closer, made his first appearance of the series and took care of Chinese Taipei with a scoreless ninth, sending MLB off to its high-speed train ride to Kaohsiung in style.
A tough Chinese Taipei team will be waiting for them once again.
"Ever since we started training, our goal was to win every game we play," Chen said.
"And even though we've lost three in a row, that hasn't changed. We're still trying to win every game we play."