DURHAM, N.C.—Before the sun had a chance to set and the Durham faithful could find their seats, the International League jumped out to a hefty lead over the Pacific Coast League at the 2014 Triple-A all-star game at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
The PCL never overcame the early deficit, losing to the International League 7-3.
"I got everybody in and we won. That's what I wanted to do and it worked out great," manager of the Bulls and the IL team Charlie Montoyo said.
Montoyo managed one previous all-star game for the IL, a 2-1 win in 2010 in Allentown, Pa. This one was more special for him.
"Because it's here. This is such a nice place now,” he said, “and people get to see nationally how nice Durham Bulls Ballpark is, and the fans and everything. Yeah, it was fun."
With two outs and two runners on in the bottom of the first inning, Durham DH Wilson Betemit (Rays), representing the hometown Bulls, singled to right field off the glove of Reno first baseman Mike Jacobs (Diamondbacks) for a 2-0 lead. Both runs were unearned, though, as a hot shot down the third-base line by Columbus first baseman Jesus Aguilar (Indians) earlier in the inning was ruled an error and prolonged the IL threat.
After Buffalo righthander Liam Hendriks (Blue Jays) worked his second efficient, effective inning for the IL—he needed just 25 pitches to strike out four and record six outs—his offense went right back to work. Gwinnett third baseman Phil Gosselin (Braves) hit a chopper to left field, and Syracuse catcher Jhonatan Solano (Nationals) hammered a fastball over the left-field wall to extend the lead to 4-0.
Hendriks earned the IL’s top star award for his performance.
"I just got ahead," said Hendriks, a native Australian who has logged 13 innings with Toronto this season. "I love first-pitch strikes and making them feel uncomfortable. That was my game plan all year, whatever start, no matter how many innings I'm going. Go out there and get ahead and stay ahead."
New Orleans righthander Elih Villanueva (Marlins), the PCL starter, was chased shortly after that, bringing Omaha righty Spencer Patton (Royals) out of the bullpen with two outs in the second inning.
Patton, who was traded earlier Wednesday from the Royals to the Rangers, played for his “before” organization and successfully got out of the two-on jam.
The PCL eventually broke through their scoreless streak, but it came in the form of a quick blast rather than a sustained attack. Albuquerque right fielder Joc Pederson (Dodgers), who struck out in his first two at-bats, pulled a solo home run to right field to lead off the sixth inning.
The next batter, Tacoma shortstop Chris Taylor (Mariners), doubled off the left-field wall, but when it looked like the PCL was going to put up a crooked number, a baserunning error (Taylor got thrown out at third base on a groundball back to the pitcher) and a pitching change kept the IL lead at 4-1.
Taylor went 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles, earning the top star honors for the PCL.
"We haven't seen these pitchers before, so it's tough," Taylor said. "You don't really know what they have, so I was trying to attack the first fastball I saw, the first good pitch to hit. Luckily, I had some success."
Any thoughts of a PCL comeback were first put on hold and then put to rest, though, when back-to-back singles and a two-run triple by Louisville left fielder Felix Perez (Reds) extended the score to 6-1 in the bottom of the sixth. Felix scored two batters later when Syracuse right fielder Steven Souza (Nationals) doubled him in.
The one-sided affair—even one in the hometown league's favor—limited the cheering from the 10,274 in attendance for most of the middle innings. That changed when Gwinnett righthander Juan Jaime (Braves) came in for the IL to work the top of the seventh and consistently filled the strike zone with fastballs at 97-99 mph. He struck out two of the three batters he faced.
"This is awesome," Hendriks said. "This is always a fun place to play, no matter what game it is, but for an all-star game it was incredible out there."
The IL victory brings the series to 9-8 in favor of the PCL since 1998, the first year the format changed from American League affiliates versus National League affiliates to its current format.