LOUISVILLE, Ky. Matt Brown hardly seemed bothered when the Pacific Coast League entered the top of the ninth trailing the International League by two in the Triple-A All-Star game.
"Nobody was down; we had confidence," Brown said. "In the PCL, two runs is nothing. Nobody was packing it in."
Instead, Brown and his teammates packed a night's worth of offense into one inning, scoring six runs off the IL's top closer as the PCL rallied for a 6-5 victory.
"I just didn't want to go out there and strike out every time," said Brown, who had two hits and was the PCL player of the game.
Brown didn't, but plenty of others did. The teams combined for an All-Star record 22 strikeouts, and for eight innings neither team appeared particularly inspired by playing a few blocks from the home of the Louisville Slugger.
Still, the IL seemed to have things in control after scoring twice in the bottom of the seventh on Andrew McCutchen's RBI infield single and a fielder's choice RBI by Mike Hessman.
Enter Blaine Neal. The closer for the Toledo Mud Hens, who will be heading to Beijing as a member of Team USA next month, has converted an IL-leading 23 saves this year. Yet he struggled against the PCL's best.
"I told my guys 'Blaine Neal will come right at you,"' said Pat Listach, the Iowa Cubs' skipper who managed the PCL squad. "Our guys put a lot of good at-bats against him. They were solid."
Nick Stavinoha led off for the PCL with a hit, then scored three batters later on a single by Jamie D'Antona. A single by Brown tied the game, and Mark Saccomanno gave the PCL the lead on a single up the middle.
"I think we were all out there having some fun," Saccomanno said. "We waited eight innings and didn't give the fans anything. We turned it on in the ninth inning. Both teams kind of turned it up."
By the time A.J. Ellis, a catcher for the Las Vegas 51s playing an hour from his hometown of Lexington, Ky., hit a double to center, it appeared to be more than enough for the PCL.
"It takes a lot to do what we did, to get six runs like we did and we needed every one of them," Saccomanno said.
The IL rallied for three in the bottom of the ninth, including a two-run homer by Chris Carter. But Luis Pena, who earned the win, got Jonathan Van Every to fly out to right to end it.
Neal gave up six runs, five earned, four hits, a walk and a strikeout while recording just one out and taking the loss. The appearance marked the first time all year Neal gave up more than two hits in a game all season.
McCutchen, the IL player of the game, finished with two hits and Joe Thurston added three hits for the IL.