RENO — What started out as a slugfest, turned into a battle of the bullpens at the Triple-A All-Star game.
The International League’s bullpen allowed just four hits and one run over the final eight innings, and catcher Tony Sanchez hit a three-run homer in the second inning to beat the Pacific Coast League, 4-3, Wednesday night before a record crowd of 10,135 at Aces Ballpark.
“The bullpens (on both sides) shut it down,” said Aces manager Brett Butler, who guided the PCL squad. “I was trying to make sure everybody gets in, and all the reserves except for (Carlos) Peguero got two at-bats, and he was on deck when we made the last out.”
“We started off getting runs (and hits), but then their pitchers settled down,” said Aces shortstop Chris Owings. “That’s pretty stereotypical of an all-star game. When you see a different pitcher every at-bat it makes it tough. You are looking to hit early in the count.”
The International League hitters faced the same problem, but they scored enough in the first and second innings to win the game.
The PCL bullpen allowed just two hits over the final 7 1/3 innings after starter Jarred Cosart of Oklahoma City got off to a horrendous start, allowing four runs and three hits in 1 2/3 innings.
It was a far cry from Cosart’s previous start which happened to be his MLB debut with the Astros. Cosart took a no-hitter into the seventh against Tampa Bay and beat David Price, 2-1.
The IL stars manufactured a run off Cosart in the first when Billy Hamilton (Louisville) reached on an infield single. He stole second, went to third on Jim Negrych’s roller to first and scored on Chris Colabello’s (Rochester) groundball to shortstop.
The PCL bounced back with two in the first off Louisville’s Greg Reynolds, taking its only lead of the game.
Nick Buss (Albuquerque), Owings and Brett Pill (Fresno) all singled to right, the latter blow driving in a run. Brock Peterson (Memphis) followed with a bouncer to first. Colabello was originally going to come home, but instead took the out at first which allowed Owings to score. Sacramento’s Michael Choice flied to left to end the uprising.
Cosart got the first out in the second, but then ran into problems.
Zach Walters singled to short and Jason Pridie walked. Sanchez followed with a liner over the fence in right to make it 4-2, giving the IL the lead for good. The blow earned Sanchez “Top Star” honors for the IL squad.
“He left a pitch up,” Sanchez said of Cosart. “I thought it might be a double and drive in two runs. I was looking to get a basehit. I got enough of it to sneak it out of here.
“I can’t believe it (winning the Top Star honor). With all the talent I was surrounded by.”
Sanchez’s ball was helped by the wind.
“That might not have been out in a bigger park, but he hit it hard,” Butler said.
Cosart departed after striking out Hamilton, and Chris Dwyer (Omaha) retired Negrych.
Colabello doubled off Jason Stoffel (Oklahoma City) to start the third, but was stranded when the next three hitters were retired.
The PCL had a great chance to do some damage in the fourth against Andrew Albers (Rochester).
Choice singled to center and advanced to second on a single by Yangveris Solarte. Both runners moved up on a wild pitch, and Choice scored on Johnny Monell’s groundball to first to make it 4-3. Buss followed with a liner to center, but Hamilton made a diving catch to rob him of a hit which would have tied the game.
The last five innings were not fun if you’re an offensive minded fan.
The IL managed just one hit by Vince Belnome (Durham), as PCL pitchers retired the last 10 batters of the game. The PCL managed one hit and one walk in that same span.
The hit came in the sixth off Chris Bootcheck (Scranton/Wilkes-Barre), who worked two scoreless innings.
Fresno’s Roger Kieschnick singled and moved to second on a wild pitch and advanced to third on Dean Anna’s (Tucson) infield out. Bootcheck fanned Reno’s Tuffy Gosewisch to end the threat.
Busy few days
The game wrapped up a busy few days for both Owings and teammate Matt Davidson.
Both played in the Futures Game in New York on Sunday, and then flew back to Reno for the Home Run Derby on Monday night, an event that Davidson won.
Owings went 1-for-4 on Wednesday, while Davidson went hitless in two attempts.
“I was glad I got to play nine innings,” Owings said. “It helps get me in shape for the second half of the season. I had a lot of fun and it was a good experience.”
Aces mascot Archie arrived via a CareFlight helicopter with the game ball, which he promptly dropped while being escorted to home plate ... Whitney Meyer, a second-season contestant on NBC’s The Voice, sang the National Anthem ... The win gives the International League a 9-7 edge in the yearly head-to-head matchups ... Former aces infielder Ryan Wheeler, who was traded by Arizona to Colorado after last season, received a nice ovation from the fans during pre-game introductions ... Michael Wacha of Memphis won the Top Star award for the PCL ...Butler said he will leave the team after Thursdays game to go to Scottsdale for the birth of his first grandchild, Bryce Morgan Butler... The Aces start a series against the Las Vegas 51s tonight at Aces Ballpark.