Two very different All-Star games took place on Wednesday with two very distinctly different results as the Double-A Eastern League and Triple-A International League participated in their own midsummer classics.
The Double-A All-Star Game pitted the Eastern and Western Division clubs against one another from Akron’s own Canal Park. The Triple-A contest featured the International League versus the Pacific Coast League from BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The RubberDucks played host to the Eastern League event and packed the Western Division roster with seven selections along with the Akron coaching and field staff. Led by manager David Wallace, the Western Division team looked to defend their home field, but a stacked Eastern Division roster, filled up with plenty of talented prospects from Reading, led the charge in a lopsided 10-2 contest in front of a sold out crowd of 8,054 on a steamy 90 degree night in Ohio.
Reading first baseman Rhys Hoskins blasted a three-run homer in the first inning, which would turn out to be more than enough for the Eastern Division team, managed by Dusty Wathan in the park that he once played in while with the Akron Aeros in one of three seasons spent as an Indians farmhand.
The East All-Stars added two-run innings in the fourth, fifth, and ninth and a solo run in the eighth on the way to racking up ten runs on 20 hits. The West, meanwhile, was limited to solo runs in the fourth and fifth and had just five hits in total on the night.
As for the RubberDucks in the contest, there was not much in the line of production from the offensive side.
Number two hitter in the West All-Stars lineup, Clint Frazier, was back after his successful appearance in the All-Star Futures Game in San Diego over the weekend, but went 0-for-2 with a strikeout in the first and a groundout to third to lead off the fourth.
Nellie Rodriguez struck out twice swinging while hitting fourth in the lineup.
Bradley Zimmer, hitting fifth, flied out to center in the second and grounded out to second to end the fourth. The West sent four players to the plate that inning, with a solo homer from Garabez Rosa the only non-Akron out of the frame.
All three players exited in the top of the fifth inning for defensive replacements.
Catcher Jeremy Lucas took over behind the plate in the top of the sixth inning. He struck out swinging in his only at bat in the seventh.
Home field played no advantage for the ‘Ducks, who went 0-for-7 with four strikeouts on the night.
As for the pitching staff, they fared little better on the star-struck night.
Grant Sides entered in the seventh and was the best of the bunch. He gave up a leadoff single to Jake Romanski before getting a double play ball and a fly out to end the inning. It marked one of the two times in the game that the West pitching staff faced the minimum in an inning.
Louis Head took the mound in the eighth and got two quick fly outs before giving up three straight hits. A pair of doubles sandwiched a single, with the game’s MVP Matt Oberste driving in a run on the single, before Head stranded two in scoring position on a grounder to short.
J.P. Feyereisen pitched the ninth and gave up three straight hits to start the inning (double, two singles). After a fly out for the first out, a single loaded the bases before a liner to short put the second out on the board. Oberste drove in his fourth run of the game with a single before Feyereisen got a grounder to first to end the inning.
The Columbus Clippers brought three of their own to the contest – shortstop Erik Gonzalez, starting pitcher Mike Clevinger, and reliever Shawn Armstrong. Unlike their farm system mates from Akron, all three contributed positively to the outcome of the Triple-A exhibition game.
Former members of the Indians organization, Jim Thome and Charlie Manuel, were inducted into the Charlotte Baseball Roundtable of Honor earlier in the day for their time with the Charlotte Knights organization (when it was a Triple-A affiliate of the Indians). Both men were with the club in 1993.
The International League won, 4-2, after coming back from an early two-run deficit. It was the Clippers’ shortstop Gonzalez who got the scoring started for the IL.
Against starter Brady Rodgers with two outs in the second, Gonzalez sent a liner out to left and over the wall to cut the Pacific Coast League’s lead to 2-1. Clevinger took the mound in the next half inning, getting a pair of strikeouts around a pop out to Gonzalez at short in his only inning of work.
The IL stars tied the game in the fourth with a solo home run and took their lead in the fifth on an RBI groundout. A solo homer in the eighth padded their small advantage.
Fellow Clippers reliever Armstrong came on in the seventh inning with the score 3-2. With the potential tying run on second base and one out, the right-hander struck out a pair to end the inning.
Gonzalez went the distance, playing all nine innings for the IL in the win. His lone hit came in his first at bat, as he struck out to end the fourth and sixth innings and flied out to right to end the eighth. In the ninth with a runner on first and the score still 4-2, he turned a big double play with a glove flip to the bag before former Indians reliever Edward Mujica came on for the final out.
Gonzalez followed his third All-Star Game appearance of his professional career (and first since his time in Carolina in 2014) with a big call on Thursday – his promotion to the Majors with the Indians.
Photo: Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer