DAVENPORT, Iowa -- Jay Bruce was a little disappointed with his showing in Tuesday's Midwest League All-Star Game Home Run Derby. He more than made up for it when the lights came on.
After hitting just one home run in the opening round and none in a six-swing tiebreaker, Bruce came back strong during the actual game. The Dayton Dragons (Cincinnati Reds) slugger claimed the MWL Star of Stars honor with a two-run homer, a double and a single as the Eastern team defeated the West, 7-1, in front of 4,638 fans at John O'Donnell Stadium.
"I was a little nervous in the Home Run Derby and didn't do as well as I had hoped," Bruce said. "I think the problem was we were all talking about how many balls we were going to put in the (Mississippi) River beyond the right-field berm. I tried to kill the ball and needed to relax."
He relaxed once the game started, his one-out single in the third inning started a three-run East rally that broke a 1-1 tie.
His leadoff double in the seventh led to another run. Then he put the game on ice in the ninth by blasting a pitch from Swing of the Quad Cities left-hander Danny Borne well over the wall in right center.
"That was fun," Bruce said. "I struggled against lefties earlier in the year, so it means something to hit one against a left-hander here. I hadn't even thought about the star of the game award, but everyone was telling me it was mine."
Bruce finished the first half batting .294 with 24 doubles, five triples, 10 home runs and 46 RBIs. He said he enjoyed his trip to the Midsummer Classic.
"When they have a big crowd like that, it's a lot like our park in Dayton," Bruce said. "It was a great atmosphere. Winning the game is very important, I don't think you ever want to go into a game not thinking about winning."
The East grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first on a leadoff double off the bat of Justin Upton (South Bend) and a one-out sacrifice fly by Jeff Baisley (Kane County).
The Western squad tied it in the bottom of the first on back-to-back doubles by Swing stars Colby Rasmus and Randy Roth. That was the last offense mounted by the West.
Eastern pitchers allowed a single to Ron Garth (Wisconsin) and an infield hit to Rasmus in the third and then retired 18 of the final 20 hitters they faced.
South Bend pitcher Vincent Bongiovanni was named the Bank of America Outstanding Pitcher Award winner, working a perfect inning with two strikeouts.
"I never even knew they were naming an award to the pitchers," Bongiovanni said. "In an All-Star Game that's such a crapshoot when the pitchers are throwing no more than an inning. I just went out and did what I could and let it all hang out for an inning."
Swing left-hander Jaime Garcia was the game's losing pitcher, allowing three runs on five hits in the third. Garcia was hurt by an apparent missed call at first base on an infield tapper that opened the floodgates in the inning.
Cory Patton (Lansing), Kyle Blanks (Fort Wayne) and Darryl Jones (Fort Wayne) had RBI hits for the East in the third.
The East added a run in the seventh on Bruce's double and a sacrifice fly by Dayton teammate Craig Tatum.