07/16/08 2:25 AM ET
Gonzalez almost wins it for NL
Sacrifice fly in eighth inning gave team brief lead
By Corey Brock / MLB.com
Gonzalez began the 79th All-Star Game sitting on the bench as a National League backup but ended up playing a prominent role after he entered the game during the sixth inning for starter Lance Berkman of the Astros.
Once Gonzalez got in the game, things got a little weird, though they weren't altogether unfamiliar to the 26-year-old who was on the field in the 15th inning when the American League scored the winning run for a 4-3 victory over the National League.
To Gonzalez, who was 1-for-3 with an RBI, the length of the game, the innings and the overall time (four hours and 50 minutes), felt like many of the extra-innings games San Diego has played this season.
"It was like a Padre game," Gonzalez said, noting the Padres have played more innings than any team in baseball, including games of 22 and 18 innings. "It was a tough one to swallow."
Gonzalez knocked in what, at the time, was the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly in the eighth inning off Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon. Gonzalez later singled off former Padres farm hand, Joakim Soria in the 11th inning.
Gonzalez also struck out with the bases loaded with two outs in the 12th inning against Baltimore Orioles closer George Sherrill, a left-hander.
"I had an opportunity with less than two outs ... and I tried not to do too much with it," Gonzalez said of his fly ball off Papelbon. "But I wish I could have done more with the bases-loaded pitch."
Gonzalez's night included much more than important at-bats, though.
Gonzalez's best play, arguably, might have come on defense in the 10th inning when he picked a ball out of the dirt on a throw to first base by catcher Russell Martin, who tried to complete a double-play with the bases loaded.
If the ball skipped into right field, the American League would have won the game right there and then. Instead, Gonzalez made a nice play on the ball and the game rolled on ... and on.
"He's pretty smooth over there. It wasn't an easy pick but he makes those picks looks easy," said Martin, who has seen plenty of Gonzalez's work with the glove in National League West Division play."
For a fleeting moment, it looked like Gonzalez might be the hero.
Gonzalez's sacrifice fly to left field allowed Houston's Miguel Tejada, who had singled, stole second base and advanced to third on a throwing error, to easily score the potential winning run as the National League looked poised to end its 11-game stretch without a victory in the series.
But the American League tied the game in the bottom of the eighth inning on a double with two outs by Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria.
Gonzalez entered the game on defense in the bottom of the sixth inning for Berkman, who went 0-for-2 with a sacrifice fly in the sixth inning that drove in a run for a 2-0 National League lead.
Gonzalez, elected to the his first All-Star Game by a vote of his peers, was not a surprise pick by any means, not after the way he carried the moribund Padres' offense during the first half of the season.
The Padres (37-58) are tied with the Mariners for the second-worst winning percentage (.389) in the Major League at the break, though they the trail first-place Diamondbacks by 10 games.
Despite heading to the All-Star Game in a 9-for-53 slump, the result, Gonzalez said, of "trying to come up with the extra hit," the former No. 1 overall pick of the Florida Marlins is hitting .276 with 22 home runs and 71 RBIs.
But before he gets back to the regular season, Gonzalez took one final time to savor his first All-Star Game appearance has he hurriedly packed his bags.
"It was great just being here, being around the guys," he said.
Gonzalez was the lone Padres representative in Tuesday's All-Star Game. A year ago, the Padres had three players in San Francisco -- pitchers Jake Peavy, who got the start, Trevor Hoffman and Chris Young, who got the loss in relief when he allowed an inside-the-park home run to Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki.
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.