MINNEAPOLIS—For scouts, front-office executives and fans who have lamented that the power has gone out of the game in the major leagues, just hold tight.
At the Futures Game at Target Field, two of the minors’ best prospects played a game of ‘can you top this?’ all afternoon. Baez struck first both times, first with a rousing, exciting round of batting practice, then with an opposite-field home run in the top of the sixth inning for the World team.
But Gallo outshined Baez on both counts. He wowed media and fans alike with a windshield-breaking BP performance, denting the upper deck at Target Field repeatedly. Then, after striking out in each of his first two at-bats, Gallo got a 2-0 pitch from the Astros’ Michael Feliz, a 95-mph fastball, and destroyed it, sending it an estimated 419 feet over the right-field fence for a two-run homer.
The blast powered Gallo to the MVP award and allowed the U.S. to re-take the lead, one it held for a 3-2 victory in the 2014 Futures Game. It’s the fifth straight victory for U.S. prospects against the World, running the all-time ledger to 10-6 Americans since the first game in 1999.
“After the first two at-bats I just wanted to make contact and not embarrass myself too much by striking out,” Gallo said. “I got a 2-0 pitch and was just like, ‘I’m going to try to hit this one out.’”
The U.S. took an early 1-0 lead during a shaky inning by lefthander Edwin Escobar (Giants). Jesse Winker (Reds) doubled to left field to lead off the inning, moved to third on Padres farmhand Hunter Renfroe’s single to center and scored on a fielder’s choice. Escobar wobbled more, loading the bases with two outs, but retired Kris Bryant (Cubs) on a harmless fly to right.
Baez’s homer and Gallo’s were the game’s only other scoring. U.S. relievers Robert Stephenson (Reds) and Noah Syndergaard (Mets) wrapped up the game, with Syndergaard earning the save while Jake Thompson (Tigers) got credit for the victory, getting two outs by strikeout.
“It was a good game,” World manager and Hall of Fame pitcher Bert Blyleven said. “We had a lot of impressive young arms, a lot of young guys in low (Class) A even, who really showed well. I got everybody into the game and nobody got hurt. I thought it was a great game and TK (U.S. manager Tom Kelly) will tell you the same thing.”
The game was played crisply, error-free and in just 2 hours, 33 minutes on a beautiful, 77-degree summer day.
The World Team’s standouts, other than Baez, were mostly pitchers. Center (or centre?) fielder Dalton Pompey of the Blue Jays had two hits in four trips and scored ahead of Baez’s homer. Rockies infielder Rosell Herrera singled in both of his at-bats as a DH.
But four World pitchers made their mark, starting with Jose Berrios (Twins) tossing a scoreless inning, followed by Domingo German (Marlins), who struck out Kris Bryant (Cubs) and Gallo to start his scoreless inning of work in the second. German got Bryant by throwing six straight fastballs, all between 94-96 mph, and fanned Bryant on an 83-mph slider in an at-bat that included three fastballs at 95-96.
“It didn’t matter who was hitting,” German said through a translator, MLB’s Sylvia Lind. “I knew it was Bryant and Gallo; I looked at their lineup when I saw I was pitching. It’s still baseball. I had to get ahead and then throw my pitches.”
The World also got scoreless innings from Luis Severino (Yankees) and Julio Urias (Dodgers), who both impressed. Severino struck out Gallo looking with an 81-mph slider, but Urias was even better. The 17-year-old sat 92-95 with his fastball while striking out Michael Taylor (Nationals), sandwiched between a lineout by Kevin Plawecki (Mets) and groundout by Micah Johnson (White Sox).
Urias broke out a special new pair of fluorescent green Under Armour cleats to celebrate the big game, but said he otherwise tried to treat it like a normal game.
“It was a big game, a big deal, but I was not nervous,” he said through Lind, who was translating. “You have to go with what you have. For me that was my fastball, slider and changeup.
“It’s been a lot of fun, from breakfast this morning until it ends later tonight.”
Baez’s homer came off low Class A Nationals righty Lucas Giolito. “Baez was sitting curveball first pitch, I didn’t get it down enough and he destroyed it oppo,” Giolito said. “I don’t see that very much.”
Otherwise, the U.S. pitchers were in control, combining for 10 strikeouts total with only one walk, issued by Hunter Harvey (Orioles). Lefthanders Henry Owens (Red Sox) and Daniel Norris (Blue Jays) and righthanders Christian Binford (Royals), Harvey and Alex Meyer (Twins) started the game with five scoreless frames. Meyer needed just four pitches and was the game’s hardest thrower, with every pitch at 97 or 98 mph.
Contributing: J.J. Cooper and Josh Norris