Tucson Padres baseball
Cunningham only Padre picked for PCL All-Star team
Another comeback win for T-Pads
Tucson Padres outfielder Aaron Cunningham received some of the best news of the season while standing in a grocery store.
"I bumped into one of the team trainers at Safeway, and he told me that I had been selected to the All-Star Game," he said. "I was really blown away."
Cunningham got the news on the team's most recent day off, June 29.
Cunningham stands as the only Padres player to be voted into this year's Pacific Coast League All-Star team. He has a .319 batting average with 27 doubles, 60 RBIs and 9 home runs this season.
"You know, I was sort of surprised because I feel like a lot of the other guys have played better than I have," Cunningham said. "But I was excited that I made the (All-Star) team. It's a privilege. I haven't been to a Triple-A All-Star Game in awhile, so it'll definitely be a pleasure."
The Alaskan-born right-hander was perfect at the plate in Wednesday night's 6-3 win by Tucson over the Reno Aces, going 4-for-4 with 2 doubles and an RBI.
After a scoreless first, the July 6 game opened offensively with a three-run second inning by the Aces.
Down 3-0 in the fourth, the Padres retaliated. Left fielder James Darnell got Tucson on the board with a solo home run to left-center field on a 2-2 count.
"The ball flies better here than where I played in Double-A," recent call-up Darnell said. "So when the ball comes off the bat, I'm always interested to see how it will carry."
Cunningham, the very next batter, sent a 1-1 pitch in a similar fashion over the wall, with the ball landing in a nearly identical position as Darnell's. The back-to-back homers pulled the Padres within a run, 3-2.
"I got some pitches tonight that I don't normally get, so I was able to drive the ball," Cunningham said. "I was getting a lot of fastballs. I saw that (Reno starting pitcher Zack Kroenke) was trying to work his off-speed pitches, but he wasn't throwing them for strikes. So when he fell behind in the count, I knew he was going to his fastball."
Jarrett Hoffpauir then set the table to tie the game by doubling a rope to the left field corner. He advanced to third on a wild pitch, and Padres starting pitcher Jeremy Hefner dribbled the ball down the first base line on a sacrifice bunt to send Hoffpauir home.
"There's this confidence as a batter on this team that when you get on base, you know someone is going to drive you in," Hoffpauir said. "We've got a lot of good hitters on this team that can produce runs."
With the score tied 3-3, the game remained that way until the bottom of the sixth.
The PCL All-Star Cunningham led off the inning with a single, followed by another double by Hoffpauir. With two runners on and nobody out, Guillermo Quiroz disrupted the balance of a tie ballgame with a two-run RBI single to right.
Not content with a two-run lead, the Padres notched another run on in the same inning on an RBI triple by Everth Cabrera. The three-run, four-hit inning put Tucson up, 6-3 at the end of the sixth frame.
Both bullpens achieved clean innings the rest of the game; Padres Scott Munter, Evan Scribner and Brad Brach kept the score the same until the end. The Padres took the matchup from the Aces, 6-3.
"This is definitely the best offensive team I've ever been on," Cunningham said. "You know, we lost (Anthony) Rizzo and (Andy) Parrino, but then guys come right back in (in their places) who are great hitters. There hasn't been any gaps at all. I mean, the hitting talent on this team is incredible."
Hefner went 6 innings on 3 runs (2 earned), 4 hits and 4 strikeouts. The victory was his sixth of the season compared with his five losses. Recent call-up Brach earned his first save of the season in his first Padres appearance.
Padres in third place at 43-43
The Padres have now won nine of their last 10 games and they picked up another game in the standings, as first place Sacramento lost its ninth straight. The Padres are 43-43, in third place, seven games out of first. Kyle Blanks hit a double in the fifth inning, extending his hitting streak to 22 games.
Tucson returns home after the All-Star break on Monday, July 18 to begin a four-game set against the Tacoma Rainiers, the Seattle Mariners' affiliate. Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m.
The Pacific Coast League All-Stars will take on their International League counterparts in the 24th annual Triple-A All-Star Game, set for Wednesday, July 13, at Spring Mobile Ballpark in Salt Lake City. First pitch is slated for 7:05 p.m.; the game can be seen live on the MLB Network.