The International League scored three unearned runs and shut out the Pacific Coast League on three hits Wednesday to claim victory in the 24th Triple-A All-Star Game presented by Zions Bank.
Durham's Russ Canzler (Rays) was named IL Top Star after providing the game's only scoring with a three-run homer to left-center field in the second inning off PCL starter and losing pitcher Brad Mills (Blue Jays) of Las Vegas. All three runs were unearned, however, as the inning began with a costly error at third by Salt Lake's Jeff Baisley (Angels) on a ground ball off the bat of Charlotte's Dayan Viciedo (White Sox).
How tough was it to hit the IL pitching? First baseman David Cooper of the 51s was named PCL Top Star after managing a single and a walk. This, in a ballpark where two nights earlier, high school junior Kayden Porter hit a ball 545 feet in the Home Run Derby.
"I expected to see a lot more offense than there was tonight," said IL skipper Mike Sarbaugh of Columbus. "But it was a well-played game. Our pitching staff did a great job starting with Zach [McAllister]."
PCL manager Lorenzo Bundy had hoped his offense would solve the IL pitchers, even though he knew they wouldn't have the luxury of making adjustments against hurlers coming in for just an inning or two.
"You look down your bench and you look at your lineup and think, 'Oh, it's just three runs.' But their pitching did a great job. ... You have to give the IL a lot of credit for pulling this one out."
Columbus' McAllister (Indians) started for the IL and picked up the win. He allowed the game's first single, a one-out, clean line drive to center off the bat of Omaha's Johnny Giavotella (Royals) and also issued a walk to Reno's Cody Ransom (D-backs), but got out of the first unscathed and retired the side in order with two strikeouts in the second. He then handed the ball over to a bullpen that allowed just two singles in front of a defense that turned three double plays.
"That was the biggest thing, being aggressive," said McAllister. "Just trying to pitch how you normally would during the season. That's what I did, I think that's what everyone did on the pitching staff.
"Throughout the game, guys were making great plays, left and right. The errors happen, but you pick them up as a pitcher and say, 'Here's the next one for you' and hopefully they've got your back. For the most part, they always do."
Meanwhile, one of the game's few pitching mistakes proved to be the difference. Mills had recovered from a leadoff walk to the Clippers' Jason Kipnis in the first to face the minimum, thanks to a 6-4-3 double play turned by Ransom on a grounder by the Bulls' Brandon Guyer. But his second walk -- to Indianapolis' Matt Hague (Pittsburgh) -- set the stage for Canzler to do all the damage the IL would need to claim the win.
"I was in a position coming up to bat with runners in scoring position," said Canzler, his jersey spotted with shaving cream splashed on him by a celebratory Ray Olmedo. "I was a little nervous at the start of the game. I just tried to remind myself to stay aggressive."
Canzler turned on a 1-0 fastball and sent it just over the wall and into a young fan's glove, an estimated 370 feet away.
"It was middle-away, a good pitch to drive."
It looked like the scoring might continue when Kipnis added the game's only double, but Mills retired Guyer to end the threat.
"They scored that a double," Kipnis asked in a jubilant IL clubhouse.
Well, the hitters would have to take what they could get. The next five innings were a pure pitching exhibition.
After Mills departed, the PCL sent Omaha's Luis Mendoza to the hill for a scoreless frame, despite singles by Reds prospects Jeremy Hermida and Devin Mesoraco of Louisville. Then, four straight hurlers -- Albuquerque's Dana Eveland (Dodgers), Fresno's Andrew Kown (Giants), Nashville's Sam Narron (Brewers) and Round Rock's Cody Eppley (Rangers) -- turned in a perfect inning apiece.
"We were good, I dunno," said Eveland. "Guys just went out and did their job. It was fun, laid-back. We weren't worried about the score, just trying to get outs."
Tacoma's Josh Lueke (Mariners) and Colorado Springs' Jim Miller (Rockies) combined on a scoreless eighth, as did Iowa's John Gaub (Cubs) and Sacramento's Willie Eyre (A's) in the ninth.
The IL kept pace, though. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre's Adam Warren (Yankees) followed McAllister with two scoreless innings, despite a pair of errors behind him in the infield. Buffalo's Chris Schwinden (Mets) was perfect in the fifth, conjuring up three straight routine grounders. Tom Milone of Syracuse (Nationals) allowed only the single by Cooper in a scoreless sixth.
Things did get interesting in the bottom of the seventh, when Tucson's Aaron Cunningham (Padres) coaxed a leadoff walk from the Knights' Shane Lindsay. Cunningham took second on a wild pitch and reached third on a groundout by the Bees' Gil Velazquez. A two-out walk to Aces catcher Konrad Schmidt put runners at the corners.
IL skipper Mark Sarbaugh called on Rochester's Chuck James (Twins) to face Oklahoma City's J.B. Shuck (Astros), who worked the count full and ultimately drew a walk to load the bases. But James recovered to fan Reno's Tony Abreu and preserve the IL's suddenly vulnerable 3-0 lead.
James recorded an out in the eighth before handing the ball to Lehigh Valley's Michael Schwimer (Phillies). Fellow Iron Pig Mike Zagurski retired two PCL batters in the ninth, and Norfolk's Mark Worrell (Orioles) got New Orleans' Vinny Rottino (Marlins) to ground out to short to end the game.