The 2014 Triple-A All-Star Game saw the International League jump all over the best talent assembled from the Pacific Coast League early on, resulting in a 7-3 rout at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
MLB veteran Wilson Betemit is part of the Tampa Bay Rays organization as a member of the hometown Durham Bulls. The 32-year-old drove home two runs to start the scoring, justifying his Triple-A All-Star status.
Jed Weisberger of MLB.com felt that some of the younger players, rather than Betemit, should have gotten a shot to take the field:
No offense to either player, but neither Wilson Betemit or Mike Jacobs need to be in a Triple-A All-Star team. Neither are, ugh, prospects.— Jed Weisberger (@jedleyq) July 16, 2014
Betemit discussed before the game how many of Wednesday's participants are on the precipice of realizing the ultimate baseball dream.
"There are a lot of guys here, they're ready to be in the big leagues right now," said Betemit, per The Charlotte Observer's Andrew Carter. "And sometimes you have to wait. You have to wait for your opportunity."
PCL starting pitcher Elih Villanueva didn't quite take advantage of his as he would have hoped. Villanueva got tagged for four runs in just 1.2 innings of work, putting his team in a hole it couldn't get out of. The Miami Marlins hopeful was outdone to a great degree by his counterpart in Liam Hendriks, who set the tone for the victors.
Hendriks yielded just one hit in two innings with four strikeouts. He looked capable of returning to the Toronto Blue Jays, where he's started three games this season.
The Buffalo Bisons, Hendriks' Triple-A club, congratulated their Australian hurler on his exceptional effort, while Triple-A Baseball noted the historical significance of Hendriks representing Buffalo:
International catcher Jhonatan Solano, who is a member of the Washington Nationals organization, continued the offensive onslaught by blasting a two-run homer in the bottom of the second. Josh Norris of Baseball America noted that Solano got his proper pitch before lifting the drive to left field:
Jhonatan Solano looks for a fastball, gets it and pumps it over the LF wall. Onions!— Josh Norris (@jnorris427) July 16, 2014
That stretched his side's lead to 4-0, putting the game all but out of reach from the beginning.
Los Angeles Dodgers top prospect Joc Pederson finally got the PCL on the board with a solo shot in the sixth. Baseball Prospectus' Adam Sobsey was sitting next to a scout in the know about how dangerous Pederson can be ahead in the count:
3-1 count to Joc Pederson. Scout next to me: "Home run." A.J. Achter throws knee-high FB. Pederson hits HR.— Adam Sobsey (@sobsey) July 17, 2014
But the International League went back on the attack with three runs in the bottom half of the inning, setting a new standard for the IL's production at the plate in the process:
The 7 runs for the IL are the most they've scored in the All-Star Game since it was played in Albuquerque in 2007.— Triple-A Baseball (@TripleABaseball) July 17, 2014
Felix Perez had two RBI in smacking a double and a triple, hinting at his potential in the outfield for the Cincinnati Reds.
Perhaps the most impressive pitcher of the night came to the bump to start the seventh. Gwinnett Braves flamethrower Juan Jaime electrified the crowd with his perfect frame of work that featured two strikeouts and a harmless pop fly to the infield.
ABC 11's Joe Mazur was among the many who walked away with a strong impression of Jaime's sensational stuff:
Pitcher for Gwinnett Juan Jaime hitting 99 mph on the gun. Whys he not in the bigs? Control problems??? Scary thought— Joe Mazur (@joemazurabc11) July 17, 2014
In the eighth and ninth, respectively, the PCL put one run on the board, though that offered little consolation. There was never a true threat for a late rally.
This may be a minor league showcase, but there was quite a turnout for the showdown, which the Bulls took time to appreciate:
A massive and sincere thank you to the 10,274 fans celebrating #ASGDurham with us tonight. An absolutely amazing night in the Bull City.— Durham Bulls (@DurhamBulls) July 17, 2014
With Major League Baseball on its All-Star break and not in action Wednesday evening, the exhibition in Durham was a great opportunity for the top prospects to strut their stuff. Those who fared well likely bolstered their odds of a life-altering promotion to the big leagues, while the ones who faltered will look at it as a chance missed.
The International League has proven again its recent superiority, stretching its advantage to 10-7 in the all-time series and notching a fifth win in the past six All-Star contests. However, none of the previous, recent wins was this dominant, so it stands to reason that the trend will only continue.
Note: Statistics and information are courtesy of MiLB.com.