Nunez slugs PCL to Triple-A All-Star win

Minors' home run leader helps snap four-game losing streak

Renato Nunez of the PCL and Richie Shaffer of the IL were named BUSH'S Beans All-Star MVPs. (Pacific Coast League)

By Jared Ravich / MiLB.com | July 13, 2017 12:51 AM ET

TACOMA, Wash. -- The Minor Leagues' home run leader might not have won the Derby on Monday, but Renato Nunez smacked a three-run rocket to lift the Pacific Coast League to a 6-4 win over the International League at the Triple-A All-Star Game on Wednesday before a crowd of 7,024 at Cheney Stadium.

The 17th-ranked A's prospect earned the BUSH's Beans MVP Award for the PCL, which snapped a four-game losing streak in the midseason classic.

"Good thing was we won the game," Nunez said. "I was able to hit that ball well and I'm just happy to be here. Tacoma was amazing and I have a couple friends who are here. It was good."

Fresno Grizzlies manager Tony DeFrancesco led his team to victory for the second time, having won the All-Star Game in 2005. 

"It was a great team effort," DeFrancesco said. "We got everybody in the game, the substitutions went smoothly and the pitching was outstanding. The defense was incredible and we got a couple big hits."

BUSH's Beans International League MVP Richie Shaffer of the Columbus Clippers got things started with a second-inning solo homer off Iowa Cubs right-hander Seth Frankoff. The Home Run Derby participant's ball cleared both the right field wall and the glove of a leaping Alex Verdugo, in town after appearing in the All-Star Futures Game.

Video: Columbus' Shaffer homers to right-center

"That was a ton of fun," Shaffer said. "Came up a little short, but there's a ton of talent here.

"We had a lot of guys in the dugout there at the end. We had a chance to win it there, competitive juices were flowing. It was a lot of fun."

The PCL evened the score in the bottom of the frame when Astros No. 23 prospect Colin Moran drilled a shot to straight right off IL starter Tom Eshelman, recently called up to Lehigh Valley. Eshelman retired the other six batters he faced, five on popups or routine fly balls.

"I think it was a fastball in," Moran said. "I just got enough of it, got it over the fence."

The wheels appeared to come off for the IL and Yankees prospect Caleb Smith in the fourth. Dodgers No. 3 prospect Willie Calhoun doubled with one out and immediately scored on a single by Colorado Springs Sky Sox first baseman Garrett Cooper. Moran's second hit of the night set the stage for Nunez, who sent a laser into the party deck in left field for a three-run homer and a 5-1 lead.

Video: Nashville's Nunez knocks three-run homer

"I had men on second and first and I was just ready to hit that pitch," said Nunez, who leads all Minor Leaguers with 24 homers. "I think it was a changeup and I was able to hit it well ... over there."

Over there was in the party deck filled with Minor League executives, who got used to dodging balls during Monday's Home Run Derby.

"Nunez killed that ball," said Moran, who wasn't as impressed with his own base hit. "That was pure luck. I was looking for a fastball and just kind of waved at a slider. It hit the base, I think, at third. I'd take that tomorrow a lot more than today."

The IL closed the gap with the fourth homer of the contest, courtesy of Rays top prospect Willy Adames, who took a fifth-inning pitch from Tacoma's Jean Machi the other way and over the wall in right. Machi appeared to have limited the damage to one run, but a passed ball by Fresno's Max Stassi allowed Pawtucket's Rusney Castillo to reach base and eventually score on a double by Shaffer. After a brief mound visit by Nashville pitching coach Rick Rodriguez, Machi retired Brentz to end the inning.


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"I just went out there and told him to relax," Rodriguez said. "I asked him, 'What's your best pitch versus a lefty?' He said curveball, so I said 'OK, throw a curveball and when you get ahead, you're just going to expand the zone.' We had the two lefties coming up. It seemed to relax him and he made great pitches."

In the bottom of the fifth, Calhoun stroked his second double of the night to the gap in right-center, driving home Reno's Christian Walker to restore the PCL's two-run lead.

"I just tried to stay short and see a pitch up," Calhoun said. "I was able to do that and put a good swing on it."

The persistent IL continued to chip away, however. Top Braves prospect Ozzie Albies doubled off Round Rock left-hander Jimmy Reyes and scored on Castillo's second single. But Reyes escaped further damage when he got Nationals No. 5 prospect Andrew Stevenson to ground into a double play.

Gwinnett's Andrew Kittredge had helped out by retiring top Mets prospect Amed Rosario to end the PCL sixth after El Paso's Nick Buss singled off Rochester's Drew Rucinski. But Kittredge ran into trouble in the seventh as back-to-back singles by Albuquerque's Noel Cuevas and Walker put runners at the corners. Louisville's Kevin Shackelford put out the fire by striking out Mariners No. 8 prospect Daniel Vogelbach and Moran.

Several PCL pitchers were lights-out. Starter Wilmer Font of Oklahoma City pitched a 1-2-3 first and Salt Lake's Troy Scribner worked around a hit by striking out the side in the third. Dodgers right-hander Madison Younginer retired the side in order in the fourth, Sacramento's Tyler Rogers allowed a walk in the sixth and Reno's Jimmie Sherfy pitched a 1-2-3 eighth.

"I think I overthrew a little bit," Sherfy said.

"I only threw four pitches," added Font.

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Norfolk's Jimmy Yacabonis and Pawtucket's Edgar Olmos held the PCL at bay in the eighth.

The game came down to the wire. After Memphis' Ryan Sherriff got one out in the ninth, Iowa's Matt Carasiti allowed a single to Albies to bring the tying run to the plate. Castillo flied deep to center, but Durham's Patrick Leonard walked before Carasiti fanned top Orioles prospect Chance Sisco to record the save.

The players appeared to have fun, especially at second base. Home Run Derby champion Bryce Brentz followed Shaffer's blast with a walk and took second two outs later on Adames' infield single. The threat ended when Adames was playfully frozen and tagged out by Rosario, who could have simply stepped on the bag for the force.

Second-ranked Cardinals prospect Carson Kelly, with family in town from down Interstate 5 in Portland, singled to right with one out in the third and was forced and held in an exaggerated embrace by second baseman Calhoun on a fielder's choice by Rosario. Rosario stole second, but Pirates No. 8 prospect Steven Brault retired Astros No. 4 prospect Derek Fisher to end the inning.

"I think being able to have fun at this game is something you should do," Calhoun said.

Jared Ravich is a senior software engineer for Major League Baseball Advanced Media. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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