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Homers, Strikeouts Rule The Day At Fall Stars Game

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Royce Lewis socked a two-run home run in his first at-bat on Saturday in the Arizona Fall League’s annual Fall Stars Game. The blast gave the East team a quick, two-run edge in an eventual 4-2 win and helped Lewis secure the game’s MVP honors.

The prize for his victory was a pro wrestling-style championship belt, which should pair nicely with the golden chain he won for taking home hitter of the week honors in the first week of the six-week season.

"I just wanted to hit the ball hard. That’s all I was thinking,” Lewis said. "I got a pitch I was able to drive and did the job.”

Lewis’ blast opened the scoring in the bottom of the second inning, but the West team quickly tied things with single runs in each of the next two frames on home runs from Kyle Isbel (Royals) and Tyler Stephenson (Reds).

Isbel’s homer came on a hanging changeup from Tigers righty Anthony Castro, and Stephenson’s missile to dead center field was yielded by Angels righty Isaac Mattson.

The deadlock didn’t last long.

In the bottom of the fourth inning, after Stephenson’s homer had tied the game, Josh Lowe (Rays) lashed an opposite-field double into the left-field corner that plated Marcus Wilson (Red Sox). The next man, Angels outfielder Brandon Marsh, muscled a sacrifice fly to center field to score Lowe, who had stolen third base.

That closed the scoring and gave the East team all the offense it needed.

The East’s bullpen allowed just one hit—a two-out single to Blake Rutherford (White Sox) over the final five innings while striking out six against no walks. The relief effort included a standout performance from Rays righthander Shane Baz, whose fastball to strike out Brandon Wagner (Yankees) clocked in at 100 mph and registered as the evening’s only triple-digit pitch.

The bullpen’s effort backed a nifty performance from Nick Neidert (Marlins), who started for the East and was the only pitcher in the game to work more than an inning. Neidert, whom Miami acquired from Seattle in the Dee Gordon trade of 2017, used a low-90s fastball that he dotted on both corners to strike out four over two innings.

Neidert was opposed by Royals lefthander Daniel Lynch, who missed two months at midseason with an injury, on the West squad. Lynch dazzled in his inning, striking out two (although one was clearly aided by the TrackMan-enforced strike zone) in just nine pitches. He finished with a flourish by running his fastball up to 99 mph on a third strike to Greg Deichmann (Athletics).

"I was feeling good, excited, a little bit nervous,” Lynch said. "Just knowing that you’re only going one inning probably helps (the velocity).”

Even in a losing effort, the West’s bullpen was mighty impressive after Lynch exited.

The quartet of Andrew Lee (Nationals), Cole Uvila (Rangers), Tyler Johnson (White Sox) and Aaron Fletcher (Mariners) struck out seven of the 11 hitters they faced while allowing just two hits and no walks.

Even though the MVP belt went to Lewis, the game was dominated by pitching. The teams combined for nine hits and three walks while striking out 22 times (11 for each side). No player had more than one hit.

Zach Neff (Twins) finished the game by coaxing a popup from David Fry (Brewers) to put a bow on a brisk game played under picture-perfect conditions at Salt River Fields, the jewel of the Arizona Fall League.

Royce Lewis Photo By Brace Hemmelgarn Minnesota Twins Getty Images

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