Durham hosts Triple-A All-Star Game
The circumstances were unlike anything ever seen at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, but the end result was very familiar — a comfortable win for Charlie Montoyo and the home team.
Montoyo managed the International League to a 7-3 win over the Pacific Coast Wednesday as the Triple-A All-Star Game came to Durham for the first time.
Durham designated hitter Wilson Betemit started the scoring with a two-out, two-run single in the first inning as the IL scored seven runs for the first time since 2007 and beat the PCL for the ninth time in 12 games.
As for the other Bulls, starter Mike Montgomery pitched a 1-2-3 third inning, reliever Merrill Kelly gave up an RBI single before getting the final out and Durham outfielder Mikie Mahtook went 0-for-4.
“(Betemit) had a big hit early, Montgomery pitched well,” Montoyo said. “Mahtook didn’t get any hits but he’s getting enough hits during the season.”
Australian Liam Hendriks of Buffalo won the IL MVP award, giving up one hit and striking out four in two innings. Virginia graduate Chris Taylor of Tacoma won the PCL MVP Award, going 3 for 4 with two doubles.
“I just got ahead — first-pitch strikes and making them feel uncomfortable,” Hendriks said. “That’s been my game plan all year. Get ahead and stay ahead.”
The 10,274 fans who came to the DBAP Wednesday are used to seeing Montoyo lead his team to victory. Durham has won six division titles in his seven years at the helm and he’s three wins shy of becoming the all-time winningest manager in Bulls history.
Montoyo threw out the ceremonial first pitch and then improved to 2-0 as the IL manager, including a win in the 2010 Triple-A All-Star Game in Allentown, Pa. But victory wasn’t all that mattered Wednesday — Montoyo said his first priority was making sure everyone played.
The IL took advantage of some poor fielding to take the lead in the first inning. After Jose Pirela of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre worked a full-count walk, Columbus’s Jesus Aguilar’s two-out grounder got past third baseman Gabriel Noriega to put runners on second and third. Betemit brought them both home with a single that popped out of the glove of first baseman Mike Jacobs.
While the IL may have been fortunate to score two runs in the first inning, there was nothing lucky about the two runs it scored in the second. After Phil Gosselin of Gwinnett led off with a single, Syracuse’s Jhonatan Solano hit a pitch from New Orleans starter Elih Villanueva over the Blue Monster to put the IL up 4-0.
That made a winner out of Hendriks, who has made three starts for the Blue Jays this season.
“I’m giving it all I’ve got to get back up there now,” said Hendriks, who is 8-1 with Buffalo. “It’s just a matter of hoping God shines on me and I get back up there now. My wife loves Toronto — she’s half-Canadian.”
The PCL recorded just three hits through the first five innings against Hendriks and three relievers, but it finally got on the board in the sixth when Joc Pederson greeted A.J. Achter with a home run to right.
Pederson, ranked the No. 1 prospect in the Dodgers system by Baseball America, is tied for third in the PCL with 17 homers despite being just 22 years old.
Taylor followed that with a double as the PCL threatened to get back in the game. But Pawtucket reliever Tommy Layne came in and got out of trouble with a strikeout and two groundouts, and the IL broke the game open in the bottom half of the inning.
The IL started with singles by Charlotte catcher Josh Phegley, making his third straight Triple-A All-Star Game appearance, and Norfolk infielder Ivan De Jesus, the son of the 15-year Major League veteran of the same name. Louisville outfielder Ezequiel Carrera followed with a two-run triple into the rightfield corner to put the IL up 6-1, and Syracuse outfielder Steven Souza Jr., who leads the IL with 62 RBI, brought Carrera home with a double.
All that was left for Montoyo to do was clear his bench. Kelly was the last one to enter, coming in with two outs in the ninth.
“I got everyone in and we won,” Montoyo said. “That’s what I wanted to do and it worked out great.”