Canzler Powers IL To Third Straight All-Star Game Win

See also: Triple-A All-Star Notes On Robinson, Brown, Milone
See also: Gartrell Squeaks Out Triple-A Home Run Derby Win

SALT LAKE CITY—Neither the Pacific Coast League's offense, nor the notorious elevation of Spring Mobile Ballpark, turned out to be much a problem for the International League's pitching staff in the Triple-A all-star game.

Nine IL pitchers combined for a three-hit shutout, and the IL defeated the PCL 3-0 for its third straight victory in the midseason exhibition.

"I'll be honest with you," said IL manager Mike Sarbaugh of Columbus. "I expected to see a lot more offense than we did tonight. But it was a well-played game. Our pitching staff did a great job."

Durham third baseman Russ Canzler provided the only runs of the game in the top of the second inning by depositing a fastball from Las Vegas lefty Brad Mills, the PCL starter, onto the berm in right-center field for a three-run homer. Salt Lake third baseman Jeff Baisley misplayed a smash by Dayan Viciedo, the Charlotte left fielder, to start the inning. Baisley's error opened the door for Canzler's blast, which came with two outs.

"I was a little nervous at the start of the game," Canzler said afterward, "but I just tried to remind myself to stay aggressive. We came out here to play hard and have fun, and I was fortunate enough to get a pitch to hit."

Canzler played the entire game and earned MVP honors for going 1-for-4 with three RBIs. The 25-year-old batted .290/.392/.475 with 10 homers and 53 RBIs in 84 games for Durham in the first half. Canzler signed with the Rays as a minor league free in November after spending his first seven professional seasons with the Cubs, the organization that made him a 30th-round pick in 2004.

IL relievers Shane Lindsay, a righty from Charlotte who touched 99 mph in the game, and Chuck James, a lefty from Rochester, walked the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh, but the PCL ultimately squandered its best scoring opportunity when James struck out Reno second baseman Tony Abreu swinging for the third out.

IL starter Zach McAllister of Columbus pitched two scoreless innings, striking out two of the final three batters he faced to earn the win. Mills, who led all PCL pitchers with 99 strikeouts at the break, took the loss, though all three runs charged to him were unearned.

"The biggest thing was being aggressive and pitching how you normally would during the season," McAllister said. "That's kind of what I did and what I think pretty much everyone did on the pitching staff."

Canzler's homer notwithstanding, the PCL pitching staff was equally as effective as the IL's. After Louisville right fielder Jeremy Hermida and catcher Devin Mesoraco each singled in the third, no IL batters reached base until the seventh.

Omaha righthander Luis Mendoza pitched a scoreless third, after which a succession of PCL relievers completed four perfect innings, beginning with Albuquerque lefty Dana Eveland in the fourth and continuing with Fresno righty Andrew Kown, Nashville lefty Sam Narron and Round Rock righty Cody Eppley.

Tacoma righty Josh Lueke continued the perfect streak by retiring the first two batters of the eighth before Louisville left fielder Yonder Alonso worked a full-count walk off Colorado Springs righty Jim Miller to finally end the stretch of 16 consecutive batters retired.  

"It was fun and laid-back," Eveland said of the PCL bullpen's approach. "We weren't all that concerned about the score. We were just trying to get outs."

As is usually the case, this year's Triple-A all-star game lost a fair amount of prospect sheen when a number of top talents withdrew at the last moment. Gwinnett righthander Julio Teheran, the 20-year-old phenom who ranks as the IL's leader in ERA and WHIP, did not participate because he threw in Sunday's Futures Game, while Scranton Wilkes-Barre catcher Jesus Montero and center fielder Desmond Jennings of Durham both missed the game due to injury.

"I think any time you come into a game like this and have those type of players, you wish they were here because of what they've accomplished," Sarbaugh said. "You want the fans here in a Pacific Coast League city to be able to see those players they don't get to see very often."

Las Vegas first baseman David Cooper, a Blue Jays first-round pick in 2008 who leads all of Triple-A in hitting this season at .375, earned player of the game honors for the PCL squad. He contributed a single and a walk after entering the game as a replacement for Iowa's Bryan LaHair in the sixth.

Salt Lake City became the first city to host two Triple-A all-star games in the same ballpark, and judging from the turnout of 12,439 fans, the city is well qualified to host a third. Spring Mobile Ballpark—then known as Franklin Quest Field—also hosted in 1996.