MIAMI--The United States pitching staff spent the entire leadup to the Futures Game hearing about how dangerous the World Team's starting lineup was.
When it came time to play Sunday, the frontline pitchers on the U.S. staff showed they were every bit capable of handling their more celebrated opponents.
Brent Honeywell (Rays), Michael Kopech (White Sox), Beau Burrows (Tigers) and Tanner Scott (Orioles) combined to limit the World Team to one run on three hits through the first five innings. They all sat comfortably in the upper 90s and combined to strike out nine and walk one to help the U.S. race out to a commanding lead in a 7-6 victory.
"They had a good lineup, a good team, but we had a good pitching staff also," said Burrows, the Tigers No. 3 prospect. "It's two great teams going at it and it was fun to be a part of."
Whether it was Honeywell dropping changeups under Jimenez's barrel, Kopech blowing a 101 mph fastball past Yoan Moncada, Burrows running a 98 mph fastball in on Devers' hands for strike three, or Scott striking out Acuna and Jimenez back-to-back on 89-90 mph sliders, it was clear immediately the front of the U.S. pitching staff was up to the challenge.
"They were throwing strikes, all of them," said Orioles catcher Chance Sisco, who caught the first five innings for the U.S. "This type of situation with everyone being so amped up, the biggest thing is just throw strikes and get ahead if you can. Guys are going to be really aggressive. The first pitch needs to be a strike and they were doing it."
Kopech's battle with Moncada was particularly memorable. The two were traded together in the offseason from the Red Sox to the White Sox in the Chris Sale deal, and are forever linked as the top two prospects in the blockbuster trade.
Kopech started Moncada with a slider taken for a ball inside, then delivered three consecutive fastballs for strikes at 99.3, 100.4, and 100.9 mph, the last of which Moncada chased up and out.
"I was probably a little more amped him to face him than anybody else," said Kopech, the White Sox's No. 2 prospect behind Moncada. "He smiled at me, I winked at him, kind of laughed a little bit."
"Once you see that, you want to be as good as them, compete with them," Burrows said.
Burrows did his part by sitting 96-98 mph in his 1-2-3 inning and getting Rosario and Devers swinging through fastballs for strike three. Scott followed pumping 98-100 mph fastballs with a swing-and-miss low 90s slider that got him both of his strikeouts, although he did give up the first run of the game.
"You see everyone striking out people and it's like 'I gotta get in on this action,'" said Scott, the Orioles No. 11 prospect. "Everyone here is good. Everyone showed out what we could do."
While the World bats finally got going against the second group of U.S. arms--the World scored five runs in the final four innings to make it a one-run game--the work of the initial U.S. pitchers gave their squad the time it needed to build the 7-1 lead through five innings that proved to be enough.
It was a dynamic performance, and one that showed they were every bit a force to be reckoned with as the World hitters they were facing.