Futures Game Ends In Tie After Sam Huff's Late Home Run
CLEVELAND — The Futures Game was guaranteed to be different this year.
For the first time, the game was played as an American League vs. National League matchup rather than United States vs. the World. It was a reduced to a seven-inning contest rather than a full-nine inning game, the first time that had happened since 1999.
The 2019 Futures Game will be remembered for another first as well—the first tie.
Sam Huff hit the tying two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh inning, and the Futures Game ended in a 2-2 tie at Progressive Field on Sunday night.
Huff, a fast-rising Rangers prospect, launched his home run 417 feet off of Rockies lefthanded relief prospect Ben Bowden with one out in the bottom of the seventh to tie the score. Neither team scored in an eighth inning played under international tiebreaker rules—where the inning begins with a runner on second base—and the game was declared a tie at the eighth inning's conclusion.
Huff was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.
"I was just trying to hit a ball up the middle, get a good pitch," the 21-year-old catcher/first baseman said. "I didn’t really want to try to hit a home run or anything. I just wanted to hit the ball hard."
Taylor Trammell and Dylan Carlson each had an RBI single in the fourth inning to provide the scoring for the National League. Jo Adell reached base three times and had a game-saving catch in extra innings to lead the AL.
The NL held onto its early 2-0 lead without much trouble until the seventh.
The 6-foot-4, 230-pound masher took a changeup in the dirt for ball one before unloading on a 94 mph fastball, sending a towering shot deep onto the left-field concourse to even the score.
"When I saw it go my heart started going and then I started in my head just smiling," Huff said. "I just felt it was something I (never) thought I was going to experience or do in my life."
The AL took the momentum from Huff's home run and built on it, but Luis Patino prevented them from pulling out the win.
Isaac Paredes followed Huff’s homer with a double into the right-center gap off Bowden and Jarren Duran’s bloop single fell into left field to put runners on the corners. With the winning run 90 feet away, Patino entered in relief of Bowden and struck out Ronaldo Hernandez and Royce Lewis swinging to preserve the tie and send the game to extra innings.
Neither team managed to score in the eighth with a runner on second under international tiebreaker rules. Adell made a diving catch in right field for the AL to prevent a potential-run scoring single in the top of the inning and Patino retired the side in the bottom of the eighth, including striking out Adell swinging through a 98 mph fastball to end it in a tie.
"It’s a smarter move (ending in a tie), especially in a game like this when you have limited pitchers and pitches they can throw," Adell said. "It makes the most sense for speeding games up. You get that runner in scoring position, it makes a lot more sense for an exhibition."
Patino pitched a game-high 1.2 scoreless innings with no hits allowed and three strikeouts.
The game was a pitcher’s duel up to until Huff’s blast. All nine hits up to that point were singles. Neither team had a hit until the fourth inning.
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The hits finally began to fall in the fourth. Carter Kieboom led off with a line-drive single to left off of Matt Manning for the first hit of the game, and two batters later Alec Bohm’s ground ball to the left side snuck under the glove of diving third baseman Nolan Jones for another single to put runners on the corners.
Trammell followed with a soft single that fell into shallow left just over the glove of a leaping Wander Franco to bring Kieboom home and give the National League the lead.
The velocity came out in the late innings once the NL had a lead. Nate Pearson entered for the American League in the fifth inning and threw his first three pitches at 99, 101 and 99 mph. He touched 102 two times, the top velocity of the game, including on a fastball to strike out Gavin Lux swinging. He finished his perfect frame with a strikeout of Joey Bart swinging through an 89 mph slider.
"He's just got a really heater man," Lux said. "He’s got a short arm, it jumps, and he’s throwing 102. You just gotta get it going early. What are you gonna say? He throws it 102."
Sixto Sanchez was the only NL pitcher to reach triple digits. The Marlins righthander entered in the bottom of the fifth and sat 98-100 mph on his fastball with an upper 80s slider. He worked around an Adell leadoff single to get the next two outs before being replaced by Devin Williams.
The AL challenged in the bottom of the sixth when Lewis and Jorge Mateo hit back-to-back two-out singles off Adrian Morejon and advanced on a wild pitch to put runners on second and third, but Morejon got fellow Cuban Luis Robert to fly out to shallow center to end the threat and keep the NL’s shutout intact.
That’s where it remained until Huff stepped to the plate and changed everything.
"It was a really cool experience," he said. "It was something I didn’t think I was going to be doing at the start of the game, but it was just cool to have that experience and do that for your team."