By Morris Phillips
CLEVELAND — The last time a game ended in a tie on All-Star Weekend all hell broke loose.
This time the mood was considerably lighter. Here’s how:
The 21st addition of the showcase for the top prospects in each big league club’s stable promised to be different, and it was. For the first time, instead of the USA vs. the World format, the teams were split traditionally, National League versus American League. Also, the ballgame was shortened from nine innings to seven, in part to limit the exposure to the pitchers, in keeping with how the precious commodities are treated on the minor league circuit where young arms routinely–but sparingly–hit 100 mph on the radar gun.
Home runs, wild innings? Sure, after last year’s 10-6 slugfest in Washington D.C. in which the clubs combined to hit eight home runs, why not run it back?
Well, the slugfest never materialized. Instead, the hard throwing proliferated, and the two clubs did all they could to scratch out some runs, but after eight innings–one more than scheduled–the game ended in a 2-2 tie.
In a nod to how things are currently done at the minor league level, extra innings began with a runner at second base to promote a quick ending, again to spare young arms, and minimize the number of marathon ballgames. But in this case, neither club was able to push across a run in the eighth.
“Guys need their (mid-season) break, so you can’t play forever, and you only have so many pitchers here,” said Nationals prospect, shortstop Carter Kieboom.
So instead of a dramatic ending, all the late drama was contained in one at-bat from Rangers’ prospect Sam Huff, who came up with a 418-foot home run off Colorado’s Ben Bowden with one on and one out in the seventh to break up a 2-0 NL shutout. Ironically, Bowden was 20 for 20 in save chances at the Double-A level this year. But on Sunday night, he walked the leadoff man, Jo Adell, then one out later, gave it up to Huff.
“He got a pitch to hit and put a great swing on it,” said Jim Thome, the legendary Cleveland slugger who managed the American League squad.
Huff was named Futures Game MVP for his dramatic homer that exited Progressive Field at more than 109 mph.
Last year’s Futures Game MVP, Cincinnati prospect Taylor Trammel knocked in a run in the fourth to put the NL up 2-0. Then with Trammel on third, and lefty Kris Bubic on the mound, Trammel attempted to steal home. But Bubic recovered from being unaware and threw a perfect pitch low and outside that garnered an out call from the home plate umpire. But replay showed that Trammel got his hand across the bag just ahead of catcher Jake Rogers’ tag. But without a replay system legislated into the Futures Game, the call stood.
The Giants’ two top prospects–catcher Joey Bart and outfielder Heliot Ramos–got into the game, but didn’t factor into the headlines. Ramos grounded a single through the middle of the infield in his only at-bat, and Bart–wearing matching, rainbow-themed gloves and cleats–went 0 for 2.
Bart did make his mark defensively, throwing out Wander Franco trying to steal second base. Franco, only 18 years old and considered the consensus, number one prospect in baseball as a Rays minor leaguer, currently plays at the Double A level. But Bart’s release and throw were perfect, reaching second base in fewer than two seconds, faster than the current, effective standard for major league catchers.
A’s prospect, Jorge Mateo, a shortstop ranked as Oakland’s eighth-best minor leaguer, singled in his first at-bat, but came up empty as one of the batters in the eighth inning given an opportunity to end the game with a runner placed on second base at the beginning of the inning.