RENO -- Indianapolis Indians catcher Tony Sanchez's second-inning three-run blast powered the visiting International League to a 4-3 victory over the Pacific Coast League on Wednesday at the 2013 Triple-A All-Star Game, hosted by the Reno Aces.
A sellout crowd of 10,135, the largest in Aces Ballpark's five-year history, witnessed an early offensive explosion, followed by a stellar performance by both bullpens and flawless defensive execution all around.
IL starter Greg Reynolds of Louisville picked up the win, PCL starter Jarred Cosart took the loss. Columbus' Preston Guilmet notched the save by recording the game's final out.
Sanchez was named MiLB.com Top Star for the IL, while the PCL's Top Star honor went to Memphis reliever Michael Wacha, whose dominant appearance was representative of the entire bullpen's All-Star performance.
"I can't believe it," said Sanchez, who deposited the first pitch he saw from Cosart into the right-field bullpen. "Coming to a game like this with all the talent you're surrounded by. You just hope you don't mess up. You don't expect to shine like that, and with an arm like Jarred Cosart's, you don't expect to do something like that."
Cosart was coming off his Major League debut five days earlier, when he took a no-hitter into the seventh en route to hurling eight shutout innings against the Tampa Bay Rays for the win. Wednesday wasn't as kind as Cosart allowed four earned runs in 1 2/3 innings and the PCL trailed, 1-0, by the time he recorded his first out.
"You don't expect a guy like Cosart to give up four runs in the first two innings," said Sanchez. "The next seven innings were more stereotypical of what you think of an All-Star Game with all these power arms. I'm pretty spoiled in Indy with the bullpen that I have and the staff that I have. When you have a bunch of stuff like this, it just reminds me of what I'm used to.
The game began in a hurry with Louisville's speedy Billy Hamilton singling on the first pitch by beating a tough throw from Aces shortstop Chris Owings, who played the entire game. On the next pitch, a ball to Buffalo's Jim Negrych, Hamilton stole second, beating a good throw by Fresno catcher Johnny Monell. Hamilton took third on Negrych's groundout and scored the game's first run on an RBI groundout by Rochester's Chris Colabello.
The PCL came right back against Reynolds in the bottom of the first with back-to-back base hits from Albuquerque's Nick Buss and Owings. Fresno DH Brett Pill followed with a third straight single, plating Buss to tie the game. Owings scored on a comebacker to Reynolds off the bat of Memphis' Brock Peterson, giving the PCL a short-lived 2-1 lead.
"It was fun," said Reynolds, who was unaware after the game that he was named its winner. "Obviously, it didn't go as smoothly as I was hoping for, but I have no regrets about it. It's been such a fun experience. Reno's put on quite a show and I loved every minute of it."
Things didn't get easier for Cosart in the second. After Buffalo's Mauro Gomez flew out, Syracuse's Zach Walters singled to Owings, who was playing deep behind second base. Norfolk's Jason Pridie drew a walk, setting the stage for Sanchez, who followed the wind with his opposite-field, three-run blast.
"It might have been a fastball away, belt high," said Sanchez. "The right field is where my strengths are. If I'm trying to pull the ball, we're going to have problems. Especially with a runner on, I try to lock in and hit the ball that way. I had a good pitch to do that with and I took advantage of it.
"I knew I got it hard and I said 'Okay, that's at least a double, maybe drive in two runs.' We all know the ball flies in the PCL. I just happened to get enough of it."
Cosart then issued his second walk of the inning to Thomas Neal, who stole second. Hamilton fanned for the second out, but Cosart was on a pitch count and was relieved by Omaha's Chris Dwyer, who ended the inning without further damage.
After Cosart's exit, the PCL bullpen was in complete command. Oklahoma City's Jason Stoffel, Tacoma's Brian Moran, New Orleans' Zach Phillips, Wacha, Iowa's Chris Rusin and Nashville's Rob Wooten combined for 7 1/3 scoreless innings with six strikeouts and only one walk. Wacha faced five batters and set them all down, inducing groundouts from four of the five.
"Usually it's not (typical of my game)," Wacha said. "But lately I've been trying to work down in the zone, trying to get those groundouts. So it ended up working for me tonight and guys played great defense behind me."
Three of those grounders went to slick-fielding first baseman Efren Navarro of Salt Lake. The last was a hard shot to first by Cody Asche, which Navarro fielded on a short hop with ease.
"I told him, 'Thanks for fielding those, man.' I know they weren't that easy. He's a great fielder. That's impressive."
Monell wasn't surprised to see Navarro making those plays so effortlessly.
"Awesome," said Monell. "I call him 'The JT Snow.' That dude's unbelievable. That chopper, not too many first basemen make that play. He doesn't panic over there. He uses his glove really well. He's a tremendous, tremendous defensive first baseman."
Earlier in the fifth, Moran benefited from a beautiful over-the-shoulder catch by Owings that robbed Gomez of a base hit to shallow center.
"I didn't think he had a chance," said IL skipper Dave Miley of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. "That was a great catch."
The IL bullpen nearly kept pace with Durham's J.D. Martin pitching a scoreless second, followed by another by Indianapolis lefty Kris Johnson. Rochester's Andrew Albers had some trouble in the fourth when Sacramento's Michael Choice and Round Rock's Yangervis Solarte led off with singles, Choice took third on a passed ball, then scored on Monell's groundout to first, cutting the IL lead to 4-3.
But the scoring ended there with the Yankees' Chris Bootcheck, Pawtucket's Anthony Carter and Durham's Kirby Yates putting up zeros for four innings to set up the ninth for Indianapolis' Vic Black. Black hit 100 mph and fanned Fresno's Roger Kieschnick swinging before getting a groundout from Tucson's Dean Anna.
Aces catcher Tuffy Gosewisch had one last chance to get the PCL going, but Guilmet induced him to ground out to short to pick up the save.
Jared Ravich is a senior technical producer for MiLB.com.