MVP Jimenez calls All-Star shot in ninth

Cubs prospect keys East rally in Midwest League midseason classic

By Douglas Miles / Special to MiLB.com | June 22, 2016 12:59 AM ET

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- Before he stepped to the plate for his fifth at-bat in the top of the ninth inning of the Midwest League All-Star Game, South Bend's Eloy Jimenez turned to his Eastern Division teammates and called his shot.

With the East trailing by three runs and two outs from defeat, only a home run could tie the game. So the Cubs' 10th-ranked prospect made good on his declaration.

Jimenez's three-run blast well past the 400-foot mark in center field tied the game and Lake County's Willi Castro delivered the go-ahead run Tuesday night as the East erased a seven-run deficit and stunned the West, 11-10, in front of 4,565 fans at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

"I was looking for a slider and he threw me a lot of sliders in the game," Jimenez said. "I just sat down on the slider and I hit it well."

Jimenez, who was named MVP, has hit a lot of pitchers well this season for the first-half Eastern Division champions. He leads the league with 88 hits, a .914 OPS and .535 slugging percentage while ranking second with a .341 batting average.

"I'm feeling very well," Jimenez said. "Just stay present, in the moment. Look for my pitch and when I see the ball, I just hit. ... I keep playing hard."


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The native of the Dominican Republic was hitless until the home run but drove in another run with a groundout in the seventh that got the Eastern Division within 8-7. Jimenez played all nine innings.

"If the team needs it, I can play the whole game," he said.

Castro, the Indians' 20th-ranked prospect, listened as Jimenez made his bold prediction.

"It was a big home run," Castro said. "He even said it before the inning. He said, 'I'm going to hit it out.' ... He told me, he said, 'I'm going to hit it out. We're going to win this game.' And he did."

Castro made sure Jimenez's final statement rang true. After Lansing's Andrew Guillotte delivered a two-out single and took second on a wild pitch, Castro's liner to right field off Clinton's Darin Gillies gave the East its first lead of the night.

"Just trying to get a good pitch," Castro said. "The first pitch he threw me was a bad pitch [to hit]. Once I got a good pitch, just tried to hit it to the middle."

Gillies took the loss, while Lansing's Dusty Isaacs recorded two outs for the win. West Michigan's Kyle Dowdy retired both batters he faced for the save.

"There was no stress in our dugout at all, even when we're down," said East manager Andrew Graham of the West Michigan Whitecaps. "You've got to give it to them, they came back. The situation was perfect."

Until Jimenez's heroics, it appeared the MVP would go to West designated hitter Trevor Mitsui of the Kane County Cougars. The D-backs prospect started a four-run first inning with a two-run double, then plated another run with a forceout in the second that made it 5-1.

"It's an honor just being able to be here with the best in the league," Mitsui said. "That was quite a game."

The West lead ballooned to 8-1 in the third, highlighted by a two-run single by Cedar Rapids' LaMonte Wade.

The East began its comeback by scoring five times in the fourth. Lansing's Juan Kelly and South Bend's Donnie Dewees delivered RBI singles, while West Michigan's Will Maddox capped the outburst with a two-run single to left field off Quad Cities' Kevin McCanna.

"I was lucky enough to stay on it," Maddox said. "Just a fun game, a fun day overall. Playing with all these great players and an incredible comeback win."

Murray got the hometown crowd out of its seats and gave the West some temporary breathing room with a two-run homer in the seventh off Cubs reliever Adbert Alzolay.

"I've played in front of big crowds like that, but these were just very heartwarming to hear the reception that we got and the excitement in the crowd for Cedar Rapids," Murray said.

The East has won 12 of the last 16 All-Star Games.

"We never gave up," Jimenez said. "We played hard."

Douglas Miles is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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