Team USA Wins Game 2 in the AFL, 3-2 Over Phoenix

October 27, 2007

By Conor Nicholl / MLB.com

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Andy LaRoche was the only position player who didn’t see any playing time in Team USA’s first game Thursday. Two days later, LaRoche returned and ignited a slumping Team USA offense against the Phoenix Desert Dogs.

LaRoche’s tie-breaking RBI double in the eighth inning off David Haehnel scored Delwyn Young and gave Team USA a 3-2 victory on Saturday afternoon at Scottsdale Stadium.

The double, blasted to the left-center gap, easily scored Young from first base. It was the first and only extra-base hit of the game for the national team and the first hit of LaRoche’s Team USA season.

Overall, the national team finished with just six hits after it enjoyed a six-run, 11-hit attack in the first game, an 8-6 loss to Peoria. Team USA is 1-1 in its six-game AFL tuneup for the IABF World Cup in Taiwan, Nov. 6-18.

“I don’t expect us to go out there right off the bat,” Young said. “We want to be as sharp as all of our tools let us, but we are doing a good job and slowly getting better.”

Young and LaRoche provided the majority of the offense. Both Dodgers prospects, they combined for four hits, including back-to-back hits in the eighth inning. With one out in the eighth, Young, who finished 3-for-4 and is 5-for-7 against AFL teams, singled off second baseman Blake Davis’ (Baltimore) glove and into right field.

LaRoche, who missed Thursday’s game because of a reaction to a flu shot, displayed the talents that made him one of the best prospects in the Minors. The third baseman hit .309 for Triple-A Las Vegas this season, including a .370 mark in the No. 5 hole.

That’s where Team USA manager Davey Johnson placed him Saturday. LaRoche continued his fine year with his double into the deepest part of Scottsdale Stadium. Young scored easily.

The hit helped provide the national team with its first victory and support a pitching staff that was much improved from its Thursday game. In the Peoria loss, seven pitchers allowed eight hits, eight walks and six earned runs.

On Saturday, the team used five different pitchers and Neal Musser, a Royals prospect who threw the last out of Thursday’s game. The staff struck out 10, walked one and allowed one extra base hit.

Team USA used Jeff Karstens (Yankees), Brian Duensing (Twins) and Josh Outman (Phillies) for two innings apiece. All three are considered options for the rotation. Karstens started the game and allowed two baserunners and no runs in two innings.

“Basically today was really to work with [Phillies’ catcher] Jason Jaramillo and try to get an idea for how I like to work and how he likes to work,” Karstens said. “We did a good job of that. There was really only one time that we weren’t on the same page.”

Karstens was also helped by a tremendous catch from Young. With two on and two out in the second, Nolan Reimold, an Orioles prospect, blasted a deep fly ball to left. Young drifted to the warning track, reached back and made the catch over his head before tumbling onto the warning track.

“The first five innings I couldn’t see the ball at all,” Young said. “The sun was right in my eyes. I saw it for a while, but it stayed in the sun for most of the time.”

Team USA produced little offense in the first four innings against the Desert Dogs. Phoenix entered the game with a 9-6 record and a 2.96 ERA, the best in the Arizona Fall League.

Baltimore’s Jim Johnson (1.04 AFL ERA), Pittsburgh’s Patrick Bresnehan (0.00 ERA) and Baltimore’s Jake Arrieta (0.00) blanked the national team on one hit (a Young single) and two walks in four innings.

“It’s 12:30 p.m. It’s early,” Young said with a smile. “Most of these guys had some time off and we have only had two days of batting practice. That is what we are here for.”

Down 1-0, Team USA scored two in the fifth -- and hit one ball out of the infield.

Jaramillo started the inning with a walk and Jayson Nix grounded into a force out. Colby Rasmus, the Cardinals’ top prospect, reached base for the fifth time in two games with a single to right-center. Both runners moved up on a passed ball and, after a strikeout, Evan Longoria (Devil Rays) hit a soft ground ball down the third base line.

Matt Macri’s (Minnesota) sidearm throw bounced in front of the first base bag and Jason Delaney (Pirates) couldn’t make the scoop. Nix scored easily and Rasmus came home on the errant throw.

Phoenix nicked Outman for a sixth-inning run on a broken-bat single. Two innings later, LaRoche’s double broke the stalemate. After Jeff Stevens (Cleveland) tossed a scoreless seventh, Musser and Chris Booker (Washington) got the final six outs.

Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com.