Pirates prospect Will Craig hit twice as Futures Game ends in 2-2 tie
CLEVELAND — Texas prospect Sam Huff’s two-run homer in the seventh inning rallied the American League to a 2-2 tie with the National League on Sunday night — and provided the first glimpse of an All-Star tiebreaker — in the Futures Game.
This year’s format was changed with the game shortened from nine to seven innings, and Huff’s homer off Colorado’s Ben Bowden forced the game into the eighth — this time, extras — and earned him MVP honors.
Both teams began their at-bats with a runner at second base in the eighth, but neither could push a run across, and the 21st game featuring baseball’s up-and-coming stars ended with a thud.
The tiebreaker could come into play in Tuesday’s All-Star Game. The past two games went 10 innings.
Pirates Triple-A first baseman Will Craig was hit by pitches in both plate appearances. He did not react after being plunked by Mariners right-hander Justin Dunn in the second, but he angrily flung his bat after being struck in the fourth by Matt Manning.
Beyond the other adjustments, the biggest difference in this year’s game was the lack of scoring. Last year, the U.S. won 10-6 as Reds prospect Taylor Trammell homered and tripled.
Down to their final two outs and blanked over six innings, the AL tied it in the seventh on Huff’s shot onto the pedestrian patio in left.
The 21-year-old connected on a 1-0 pitch from Bowden, who is for 20 for 20 in save opportunities in Double-A and Triple-A this season.
After rounding the bases, Huff was greeted at the dugout by the entire AL squad, which spilled out along with Hall of Fame slugger Jim Thome, who managed the youngsters.
Trammell hit an RBI single — and probably should have been credited for stealing home — and was probably in line to win his second straight MVP honors before the AL rallied.
Held without a hit for three innings, the NL finally broke through in the fourth.
Trammell dropped a bloop RBI single off Manning, a Detroit prospect, and Dylan Carlson had a two-out, run-scoring hit off Kris Bubic, a lefty in Kansas City’s system.
A former high school football star, Trammell nearly made it 3-0 with a straight steal of home. Bubic didn’t see him barreling down the line until the last moment, but threw in time to nip Trammel, who dived headfirst and was called out by umpire Jose Navas.
TV replays appeared to show Trammell slipped his hand under catcher Jake Rogers’ tag, and under normal circumstances the play would have likely been reviewed and overturned.
The early innings were dominated by strong pitching from both sides with high-kicking San Diego prospect MacKenzie Gore, the No. 3 overall pick in 2017, among one of several players to shine.
For many of the minor leaguers, the Futures Game provided their first experience at being inside a major league clubhouse. Some seemed awed at sharing the same cubicles and spaces as players they’ve grown up admiring.
“I think you’re always going to be a little bit nervous for something like this,” said Indians infield prospect Nolan Jones, hoping to one day work his way up from the Single-A Lynchburg Hillcats to Cleveland. “I mean, this is what you dream about.”