NEW YORK–Sorry, Hall of Fame, you can’t have Matt Davidson’s bat.
The Futures Game MVP is honored to be asked to add his bat to the Hall of Fame’s collection of baseball’s history. ”Those are like little kid dreams to get something into the Hall of Fame,” is how the Diamondbacks prospect described it.
But even if he got to dress in a big league clubhouse and play on a big league field for a day, Davidson is a minor leaguer, and as such good bats are precious. And this is a very good bat. It’s the one he used to hit a two-run home run off of Michael Ynoa that turned a one-run World lead into a one-run U.S. lead in the Futures Game at Citi Field. The U.S. never trailed again as an insurance run in the eighth led to the final 4-2 score.
“I told the Hall of Fame I’m on an unbelievable pace of breaking bats,” Davidson said. “I’ve broken like 40 of them this year. It’s unreal. I’ve got to get through the season. I have to have this bat. I hit a home run with it so I better keep it.”
Davidson offered his batting gloves and batting helmet as a suitable substitute. His Futures Game jersey is going to his family as a memento of a game he’ll always remember.
Davidson will probably be using the bat on Monday. He has a 7:55 a.m. flight back to Reno to participate in the home run derby at the Triple-A All-Star Game. He’ll play in the Triple-A game on Wednesday.
“When you’re in the offseason working out, you want to have a busy all-star week,” Davidson said.
Davidson was the MVP of a game dominated by pitchers throwing excellent one-inning stints, so no one player really made this game his own. If there was an overriding theme of the day, it was Arizona’s day to shine.
In addition to Davidson winning the MVP award for his home run, Diamondbacks shortstop Chris Owings was the defensive star of the game, making an over-the-shoulder catch while running away from home plate out to the left field line. He then teamed with second baseman Kolten Wong to turn double plays to end the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.
“I think it goes to show the type of system we have in Arizona. Those two guys (Owings and Davidson) are definitely guys you could easily see playing in the big leagues sooner than later,” Diamondbacks righthander Archie Bradley said.
Bradley wasn’t bad himself. He pitched a perfect inning, showcasing a 94-98 mph fastball and a good breaking ball.
Owings’ catch came in part because of one of those only-in-the-Futures-Game moments. Having just been sent into the game, Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo was getting acquainted in left field. The Mets center fielder expected to get into the game eventually at his normal position, spending pregame infield in the Citi Field environment that he hopes to one day make his home.
But when Nimmo was told to enter the game in the fifth, it was in left field, where he hasn’t played as a pro and didn’t play as an amateur–except for a few innings in the Under Armour All-America Game as a rising high school senior.
Nimmo figured it was better to err on the side of caution, so he played a few steps deeper than normal, figuring it would be better to have a ball drop in front of him than end up over his head. Of course, the first ball put into play after Nimmo entered the game came his way. As an alert shortstop should, Owings knew where Nimmo was.
“I looked out and saw Nimmo was playing deep, so I just went out to run it down,” Owings said.
Owings is having a strong season at Triple-A Reno, where he’s hitting .353/.376/.502. With Didi Gregorius becoming entrenched at shortstop in Phoenix, Owings may end up having to move to second base, but he offered a reminder on Sunday that he’s fully capable of playing short.
There were plenty of good pitching performances on a day that saw the typical all-star game pitching appearances: air it out. What was more notable were the few pitchers who ran into trouble.
Anthony Ranaudo might be ready to take a break from these all-star game appearances. The Red Sox righthander is 8-2, 2.67 this season at Double-A Portland, showing the kind of stuff that made him the top amateur pitching prospect in the country coming out out of his sophomore year at Louisiana State.
But he walked three and gave up three runs in one inning of work in the Eastern League all-star game four days ago. In the Futures Game, while the rest of the U.S. staff allowed only one hit. Ranaudo gave up two and walked two in ⅔ of an inning. Cubs second baseman Arismendy Alcantara homered to lead off the fourth inning against him. Xander Bogaerts singled to follow up. After Miguel Sano walked and Henry Urrutia grounded out to advance the runners, Jordan Lennerton hit a deep fly ball to left fielder Joc Pederson. Pederson uncorked a throw with plenty of carry, but it was offline enough to force catcher Austin Hedges to step to his left. That was just enough to give Bogaerts an opening to slide in, narrowly avoiding Hedges tag as he snagged home plate.
After Gregory Polanco drew the second walk of the inning, Ranaudo was pulled and Phillies lefthander Jesse Biddle came in to face his Reading teammate Maikel Franco, with a 2-1 World lead and two runners on. It took Biddle three pitches to get out of the inning, as he started Franco off with a curveball for a called strike, followed up with a 94 mph fastball that was fouled off and then a curveball that Franco missed badly.
“I knew how I was going to pitch him. The first pitch was a curveball. I knew he wasn’t going to swing at that one. Tried to get a fastball by him and he fouled it off,” Biddle said. “Then I wanted to come back with another (curveball) for the kill. I executed my pitches well.”
Still, the World team had the lead after Christian Yelich’s double to the center field wall scored Pederson to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead in the second.
But the roughest outing by a World pitcher quickly gave the lead back to the U.S.
In the top of the fifth, A’s righthander Michael Ynoa took the mound. The top prospect in Latin America heading into the 2008 international signing period, Ynoa threw fewer than 40 innings over the next four years, but now he’s healthy and showing the stuff that made him such a premium prospect.
On Sunday, Ynoa looked like a pitcher with a lot less experience than the hitters he was facing. He got George Springer to fly out to start the bottom of the fourth, but C.J. Cron turned a 94 mph fastball back around for a single. Davidson followed by beating up an 88 mph Ynoa offering that was either a slider that didn’t slide or a changeup with no tumble and not nearly enough separation from his fastball.
Ynoa then threw four straight balls to walk Pederson. Yelich followed with his second hit of the game, moving Pederson to third base.Ynoa then managed to steady himself to strike out Addison Russell, touching 95 mph in the process, and got Austin Hedges to ground out to Miguel Sano to end the inning.
The World never led again, but did threaten one more time. Giants righthander Kyle Crick walked two of the three batters he faced in the ninth before exiting so Nationals righthander A.J. Cole could pitch. With the tying run at first, Cole struck out Ji-Man Choi and then watched Jesus Galindo ground out to Kolten Wong to end the game. It was the first save of Cole’s pro career and the ninth win for the U.S. in 15 Futures Games. It was also the fourth consecutive win for the U.S.