Buck shines brightest among Jays' All-Stars
Toronto's trio soaks in experience at Midsummer Classic
ANAHEIM -- Three Blue Jays migrated to Angel Stadium for the 81st All-Star Game, and while they might have come out on the short end of the 3-1 National League victory, all three saw action and all three said they relished the experience.
Outfielders Vernon Wells and Jose Bautista and catcher John Buck were the Jays' representatives at the Midsummer Classic at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, and all entered the game and played roles in keeping the pitching-dominated game close.
"To be in this room, be able to compete on this team -- you can't compare anything to that as far as baseball-wise or anything other than having kids," Buck said. "It was that cool. That's what we play this game for. To be among the elite and be a part of that, it's pretty cool for a ballplayer."
Buck, who has been a revelation behind the plate in his first season in Toronto, had the best offensive night of the trio. He entered the game in the sixth inning and got his first at-bat in the bottom of the seventh against Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright.
Buck made the most of it, cracking a deep fly ball to the left-field warning track, where National League outfielder Matt Holliday went back on the ball and tried an over-the-shoulder catch that would have been a highlight-reel play. But the ball fell out of Holliday's glove and was ruled a double.
Buck advanced to third when his Toronto teammate, Wells, hit a fielder's choice and beat out the throw to first base, putting Jays on the corners with two out. But Wainwright struck out Angels outfielder Torii Hunter to end the threat.
"[Not only] being on the bases and seeing John across at third," Wells said, "but being in the outfield and looking across the outfield and seeing Jose out there, it was awesome to have two Blue Jays in that situation, being out there, looking over and seeing a familiar face."
The Jays weren't done there, though. Take Buck's second and final at-bat, which was memorable, but not because he got a hit -- even though he did at first.
With David Ortiz on first base and one out, Buck blooped what fell for an apparent single to right field, but it became a rare fly-ball forceout when right fielder Marlon Byrd fielded it and astutely threw to second to nail Ortiz, who was hesitant between first and second.
"Where that ball landed, where it was at, that's a tough play," Buck said. "I think it would've been bang-bang with anybody. Maybe with a little more speed ... I don't know. I think that's second-guessing too much.
"That was such a bloop, it looked like he was going to catch it. That's second-guessing a little too much, I think. I don't know, maybe his legs were tired [after winning Monday's Home Run Derby]."
Wells, who was playing in his third All-Star Game, but first since 2006, was in the hole when Byrd made the sterling heads-up play.
"Give me a chance to get up and tie this game or win this game," said Wells of his thought process at that moment. "It's just one of those in-between plays where you're not sure if it's going to fall, so you don't want to get too far off the base. They made the play when they needed to make the play."
So Wells' only at-bat turned out to be the fielder's choice in the seventh, when he swung at the first pitch, but he was the only Blue Jay to make a putout, catching a lazy fly off the bat of Reds third baseman Scott Rolen to end the top of the eighth.
"Fun as usual," Wells said of the overall experience. "That's what this whole thing is about, having a blast and competing against the best. I guess their pitching was a little better than our hitting tonight. "
Bautista, the Major League home run leader with 24 at the All-Star break, also only got one at-bat in the game. He entered as a pinch-runner in the bottom of the sixth, replacing starter Josh Hamilton, and watched Ortiz take a called third strike to end the inning.
"It was great," Bautista said. "I had some time to go run and stretch, because they changed the pitcher. I really looked around and tried to get a mental picture of it. I'll try to keep it in my head as long as I can."
Bautista ended up playing the rest of the game in right field and fielding the bases-clearing seventh-inning double by Brian McCann that stood up for the winning runs.
Bautista got his chance at the plate in the bottom of the eighth, making the third out by popping out in foul territory to NL first baseman Adrian Gonzalez against San Francisco closer Brian Wilson.
Bautista's wide-eyed wonder at the spectacle of the event served as a common theme for all three Jays, who were tickled to be a part of it.
"You feel like you belong once you get chosen," Bautista said. "I definitely have a higher expectation of myself after this week. I hope to [come] here again."