Surely the minor league’s midseason home run king, Renato Nunez, was crabby over exiting the Triple-A All-Star home run derby early Monday.
But he sure made up for it Wednesday night.
Nunez sent a laser-like blast over the left-field wall for the decisive three-run home run, and the Pacific Coast League ended a long All-Star game skid by edging the International League, 6-4, in front of a sellout crowd of 7,024 at Cheney Stadium.
The PCL’s victory capped Tacoma’s first time as the host of the Triple-A All-Star game.
“It was nice,” PCL manager Tony DeFrancesco said. “We knew they had some quality arms coming at us. It was good to get a lead early.”
The IL came in with a bunch of miniscule earned-run averages for its pitchers, but the PCL posted a four-run, fourth inning against the starter with arguably the best numbers in the league – Scranton left-hander Caleb Smith.
The New York Yankees’ farmhand came out of the first half of the IL season with an 8-0 record and 2.07 ERA.
But Smith gave up all four runs in that inning off five hits to take the loss.
Two batters after Garrett Cooper gave the PCL a 2-1 lead with his run-scoring single to left field, up walked Nunez.
And Nunez crushed the first pitch he saw for a three-run home run to extend the lead to 5-1.
“I was ready to hit,” Nunez said. “Hopefully I just hit it hard.”
The Nashville first baseman, who leads all minor leaguers with 24 home runs, was named MVP of the 30th Triple-A All-Star game.
The IL responded with two runs in the fifth inning off Rainiers reliever Jean Machi. The inning started with Willy Adames’ solo blast to right field. Richie Shaffer later added an RBI double off the right-hander.
But the PCL got one run back in the fifth on Willie Calhoun’s RBI double to deep right center, scoring Christian Walker.
Rainiers first baseman Daniel Vogelbach came on as replacement in the sixth inning. He struck out on a Kevin Shackelford 97 mph fastball in the seventh.
The IL had won the past four All-Star meetings – 4-3 in 2013; 7-3 in 2014; 4-3 in 2015; and 4-2 last season.
The victory gave DeFrancesco another win in the All-Star game. He was victorious in 2005 when he was the host-city manager in Sacramento.
“They had a blast here for three days,” he said. “Tacoma did an awesome job.”