07/09/2006 7:47 PM ET
Early outburst lifts U.S. past World
Prospects Gordon, Butler pace Americans' 11-hit attack
By Kevin T. Czerwinski / MLB.com
Royals prospect Billy Butler trots home after hitting a two-run homer in the second inning. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)
PITTSBURGH -- The United States entered the XM Satellite Radio Futures Game with a roster that conjured up images of great offensive production. Sporting nine former first-round picks among their position players, the Americans weren't lacking at the plate and it showed Sunday at PNC Park.
Gary Carter's charge's blasted a pair of two-run homers and banged out 11 hits en route to an 8-5 victory over the World Team. The victory was the fifth in eight Futures Games for the U.S. and its first since 2004.
The victory also marked the second consecutive season that Kansas City prospects had a big impact on the game. Alex Gordon (first round, 2005) and Billy Butler (first round, 2004) combined to go 4-for-6 with a homer and four RBIs. Butler, who connected for one of those two-run homers, was named the game's Most Valuable Player. Justin Huber took home the MVP honors in last year's World Team victory.
"When you look at our roster, there's a lot of offensive potential," Butler said. "I knew if we got some good pitches to hit, we weren't going to miss many of them. The pitchers were only going one inning and usually when he's throwing just one inning, he has more life on his fastball.
"I just tried to do the best I could and it was great to be a part of this. You can't ever replace this."
The Americans broke open a close game in the third inning, scoring five times off Toronto prospect Davis Romero. Gordon had an RBI single that inning but the big blow was a two-run homer by Rockies farmhand Joe Koshansky.
"After a scoreless first inning, I figured everyone was just trying to get a feel for things, because they were a little nervous," Koshansky said. "It was just a matter of getting acclimated and getting a feel for it. Just because you're playing in a big-league park, it's still the same game. Once you realize that, you start hitting the ball well.
"I thought I had a shot at the MVP after the homer, but I figured I had to get another hit. When Billy came up with another hit, well ..."
The U.S. team grabbed a 2-1 lead in the bottom half of the second inning on Butler's blast, a two-run shot off Marlins prospect Jose Garcia, who was charged with the loss. Josh Fields (White Sox) got the rally started with a one-out double and Butler followed two batters later with a towering shot to center on a 3-2 offering.
The homer snapped a nine-inning scoring drought for the Americans, who, after getting shut out last season in Detroit, hadn't scored a run since the fifth inning of the 2004 game at Minute Maid Park in Houston.
"When we talked among the coaching staff, we kind of looked at the top of the order -- with Stephen Drew and Howie Kendrick and Alex Gordon and Hunter Pence -- and thought that's where the runs would come from, and who ends up winning the MVP but Billy Butler," said Carter. "I'm real happy for him."
The World squad touched former Cincinnati top pick Homer Bailey, who got the win, for a run in the top of the second as George Kottaras (San Diego) and Chin Lung Hu (Dodgers) connected for back-to-back doubles. Kottaras also smacked a two-run homer off Phil Hughes (Yankees) in the World's three-run fourth.
Though the World Team pecked away, adding another run in the fifth, the U.S. bullpen held as Josh Sharpless (Pirates) and Matt Lindstrom (Mets) combined to pitch a scoreless final two innings. Lindstrom earned the save, recording the final out on a 100-mph fastball that produced a fly ball to left.
"I thought our pitching was great," World manager Ferguson Jenkins said. "We have a young staff. Some of these guys are only 17-18 years old. When I was 17, I was in high school. They weren't shaky out there. I thought the young men performed well."
World starter Humberto Sanchez (Detroit) pitched a scoreless first inning while Radhames Liz (Baltimore) combined with Juan Salas (Tampa Bay) to pitch a scoreless sixth. Otherwise, every other World pitcher gave up at least one hit or one run.
Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.