International League rallies for all-star win
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It’s been a magical three-day run for Pawtucket’s Chris Marrero.
The veteran outfielder/first baseman slugged a solo homer off the bench to earn MVP honors and put the finishing touch on the International League’s 4-2 victory over the Pacific Coast League at the Triple-A All-Star Game on Wednesday night at BB&T Ballpark.
Two days after winning the Triple-A Home Run Derby, Marrero crushed a solo blast to center field in the eighth inning.
“Just came out here and had fun,” said Marrero, who had two at-bats in a reserve role. “[Iowa’s Armando Rivero] gave me a good pitch to hit.”
The 28-year-old, who spent 39 games with Charlotte last season, also was named IL Player of the Week on Monday.
It was an All-Star Game defined by pitching, aside from a few home runs.
Indians No. 11 prospect Erik Gonzalez of the Columbus Clippers got the IL on the board with a solo shot in the bottom of the second. Lehigh Valley’s Andrew Knapp, the Phillies’ ninth-ranked prospect, tied the game with a solo homer off Reno’s Braden Shipley in the fourth, clearing the wall in left for an opposite-field blast.
The IL scored the go-ahead run in the fifth on an RBI groundout by Lehigh Valley’s Cam Perkins.
Travis Taijeron of the Las Vegas 51s made his return trip to the Triple-A All-Star Game worth it. Playing the entire game at designated hitter, he opened the scoring with a two-run homer in the second and was named the PCL’s Top Star.
“You’d love to move up and all that,” Taijeron said. “[Las Vegas manager] Wally [Backman] preaches to give it 110 percent every game.”
Taijeron said he learned from last year’s Midsummer Classic — where he played as a reserve — and made the most of his repeat appearance.
“New town, new experience,” he said. “Definitely having four at-bats, you get locked in. Definitely a full night.”
Backman, who managed the PCL squad, said Taijeron has remained committed to improving and could fit in at the next level as a corner outfielder.
“I think Travis is motivated,” Backman said. “He has been overlooked for a long time. … I think someone is going to give a guy like that a chance.”
Taijeron, 27, has been in the Mets organization since he was drafted out of Cal Poly Pomona in 2011. He has 13 homers for Las Vegas after smashing 25 last year.
His All-Star blast came on a 1-2 pitch after he’d fallen into an 0-2 hole.
“Middle away, down, just where I like it,” he said of the delivery from Rochester left-hander Jason Wheeler. “I knew I got it well.”
For the IL, Gonzalez also had a moment in the field at shortstop to go with his home run. He began a ninth-inning double play with a quick flip in one of the game’s dazzling defensive plays.
“I did it [to] have fun with the game,” Gonzalez said. “When I do that, it’s really fun for me.”
Durham Bulls right-hander Austin Pruitt got the win. A starter during the regular season, he threw a scoreless fifth inning on 16 pitches.
“I had no idea,” he said of picking up the victory. “I was thinking about trying to get people out. I got through the inning with no runs [and one walk].”
IL pitchers combined on a three-hitter with nine strikeouts.
Clippers right-hander Shawn Armstrong came through in a clutch moment, entering with a runner on second base and one out in the seventh. He struck out D-backs No. 12 prospect Jack Reinheimer and Padres No. 15 prospect Carlos Asuaje to quell the threat.
The only player in the game with more than one hit was Rochester Red Wings second baseman Jorge Polanco, who had an infield single and a double for the IL.
Kyle Jensen of Reno scored the first run for the PCL.