07/12/09 10:04 PM ET
World reigns victorious after final-frame rally
Four runs score in seventh of rain-shortened Futures Game
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- The future looks bright. But first, it looked wet.A four-hour rain delay might have knocked a couple innings off Sunday's XM All-Star Futures Game, but it didn't take away the spirit of the 11th annual showcase of the game's top emerging talent.
And when the grounds crew finally emerged to remove the tarp, the faithful thousands who remained from the announced crowd of 36,311 at Busch Stadium watched an entertaining battle in which the World team staged a late rally to defeat the U.S., 7-5, in a game shortened to seven innings.The World team, which has now won six of the 11 installments of the Futures Game, was trailing, 5-3, when it came to bat in the seventh, which had been designated as the final inning of play. But a four-run outburst highlighted by game MVP and Twins outfield prospect Rene Tosoni's pinch-hit, RBI double got the job done. "It's awesome," said Tosoni, covered in shaving cream after a postgame celebration. "It's a thrill. We were told this morning that the U.S. and World were 5-5 [all-time]. We wanted to get on top." The World was on top early after manufacturing a pair of runs off U.S. starter Chris Tillman (Orioles) in the top of the first. Rain, however, had begun to fall shortly after the 2:08 p.m. ET first pitch, and the game went into delay mode for the first time in its history in the middle of the first inning, at 2:22 p.m. Four hours and eight minutes later, the next pitch was thrown. By that point, World starter Junichi Tazawa (Red Sox), whose arm had gone cold after warming up in the 'pen pregame, was replaced without having thrown a pitch. But the game went on for the others. "We wanted to get it in," World manager Jose Oquendo said. "Those kids wanted to go out and compete." Both sides competed in this game with an impressive display of speed on the basepaths. That fleet-footedness helped the World team add to its lead in the top of the third, when Tyson Gillies (Mariners) singled off Brian Matusz (Orioles), swiped two bags and scored on a double play to make it 3-0. But the U.S. squad answered back in the bottom of the inning. Eric Young Jr., whose father was an All-Star second baseman for the Rockies, led off with a solo homer off Francisco Samuel (Cardinals), who then walked a pair of batters. Pedro Alvarez (Pirates), the second overall selection in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, knocked in a run with an infield single off Leyson Septimo (Diamondbacks) to make it 3-2. In the fifth, the U.S. took over with a two-out rally off left-hander Luis Perez (Blue Jays). Scott Sizemore (Tigers) and Darryl Jones (Cardinals) singled to set up Astros catching prospect Jason Castro's three-run homer to right on an 0-1 pitch. That gave the U.S. a 5-3 lead. "I just wanted to be aggressive," Castro said. "My first at-bat, coming into the game off the bench, [Perez] left the pitch up, and I was able to put a good part of the bat on it. It's kind of surreal." This entire experience can be a bit surreal for those playing in a big league environment for the first time. And sometimes the nerves show. That might have been the case in the seventh, when left-hander Trevor Reckling (Angels) was sent out to preserve the two-run lead in the seventh. Reckling, a starter at Double-A Arkansas, is not exactly accustomed to these closing situations. Brett Lawrie (Brewers) got the decisive inning going with a leadoff double, and Starlin Castro (Cubs) reached on an infield single to put runners on the corners. A wild pitch from Reckling allowed Lawrie to score and Castro to advance. And with one out, Alcides Escobar (Brewers) sent a bouncer up the middle for an infield single, and A's second baseman Jemile Weeks' error helped Castro to score the tying run. Castro's speed and heads-up baserunning had paid off. "It's always good to see guys with speed," Oquendo said. "That's left the game a little bit. But the last few years, we've seen more guys with more speed coming up." Speed helps, but so do extra-base knocks. That's what Tosoni delivered when he ripped a grounder to the gap in right field that resulted in the go-ahead RBI double off reliever Brad Lincoln (Pirates). "It was really special," Tosoni said. "I was hoping we would tie it up. I got an at-bat, and I wanted to make it special." The World team then added to its lead when Dayan Viciedo (White Sox) scored Tosoni with a double of his own to make it 7-5. And in the bottom of the seventh, right-hander J.C. Sulbaran (Reds) closed it out. Right-hander Chia-Jen Lo (Astros), who had worked a scoreless sixth, was credited with the victory. "It was good to see these guys compete all the way to the end and not give up," Oquendo said. Indeed, the rain dampened the field, but not the competitive nature of those involved.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.