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07/11/07 2:22 AM ET
Soriano's dramatics, Lee's grit key rally
Left fielder belts clutch homer; first baseman keeps hope alive
By Kelly Thesier / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- This year's All-Star Game felt like a homecoming for Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee.
But the Sacramento, Calif., native was unsure if he would get the chance to play in front of nearly 30 family and friends in attendance due to the National League having four first basemen on the roster.
Lee did more than just see time in the game, as he came to the plate with the game on the line in the bottom of the ninth inning. Down by one run with two outs and the tying run at first base, Lee stepped to the plate to face Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez.
The Cubs first baseman drew a walk, the second of three straight in the final inning, which helped load the bases for Phillies center fielder Aaron Rowand.
It ended up being a disappointing ending, though, as Rowand wasn't able to deliver in the clutch. He flew out to right fielder Alex Rios to seal the NL's 5-4 loss in the 78th All-Star Game at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
Still, Lee came away from the game with a smile considering how the team ended the day.
"It was fun, and at least we got the fans into it," Lee said. "They finally got to get on their feet and cheer -- outside of Barry [Bonds]. Obviously, we would've liked to win that game. And it felt like we were going to pull a dramatic one out. That would've been great, but it didn't work out."
The NL might not have been able to pull out the victory, but it was thanks to another Cub that they even had the chance.
It was the team's only other representative at the Midsummer Classic who created the opportunity for all the drama in the final inning. Left fielder Alfonso Soriano hit a two-out, two-run, opposite-field home run over the right-field wall in the bottom of the ninth, his third career All-Star dinger. It came off Mariners closer J.J. Putz and pulled the National League within one, 5-4.
Soriano couldn't remember the last time he had faced Putz but said he knew exactly what his plan was at the plate.
"I had to look for a fastball," Soriano said. "He threw a fastball over, and I had a very good swing."
Despite the inability of the NL to end an 11-year undefeated stretch for the American League, Soriano said he was proud of the way the team came back to make it a dramatic ending.
"We didn't win the game, but it was more important that we gave a very good show for the fans here in San Francisco," Soriano said.
Soriano's late homer helped turn the night from a poor outing to one that was surely memorable. Prior to the at-bat in the ninth, Soriano had gone hitless in his two previous plate appearances. He lined out to left field when facing Chris Young in the fifth inning and struck out looking against Twins southpaw Johan Santana in the seventh.
Lee, however, did put together a strong night even before his ninth-inning walk. The first baseman entered the game in the fifth inning, replacing starting first baseman Prince Fielder of the Brewers.
A groundout in his first at-bat to Indians pitcher C.C. Sabathia wasn't a great start, but Lee then recorded his lone hit, a single to center, in the eighth inning off Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon. Lee stole second base during the next at-bat and advanced to third on a passed ball but was stranded there.
Though this was Lee's second All-Star appearance, he said this one was a bit more memorable than his first back in 2005. A lot of that was due to the fact that so many other people were able to partake in the event along with him.
"It's been really fun to see them enjoy it so much," Lee said of his family. "They get really excited. Whether it was from getting the free stuff or walking by Barry Bonds or Ken Griffey Jr., it's been really fun to see them enjoy it so much."