Rays prospect becomes first pitcher to earn MVP honors
By Mark Feinsand
MIAMI -- Playing in front of an enthusiastic crowd Sunday afternoon, the United States got back on the winning track, mashing in the early innings before holding on for a 7-6 victory over the World in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at Marlins Park.
That gave the U.S. lineup a chance to build a 7-0 lead it would never relinquish. Derek Fisher (Astros No. 4, MLB No. 70) had the big blow with a two-run double in the fourth, as six players drove in runs for manager Charles Johnson's team.
"They were relaxed," said Johnson, a longtime Marlins fan favorite. "They came out swinging the bats early."
The World began to mount a comeback with a four-run outburst from the fifth to the seventh, but the lead wasn't at stake until the ninth.
Triston McKenzie (Indians No. 2, MLB No. 47) recorded the first out before turning the three-run lead over to A.J. Puk (Athletics No. 2, MLB No. 57). The World plated a pair of runs to pull within a run, but Puk got Mauricio Dubon (Brewers No. 9) to ground out to third base to seal the victory.
"You're talking about a bunch of guys, and almost everybody is throwing over 95," Johnson said. "It's hard to believe that this many young kids can throw that hard. Back when I came in the league, in the Minor Leagues, you didn't see guys, all of them, throwing more than 95. It's a different evolution of baseball I've seen over the years. It's very exciting to watch."
The United States has won 12 of the 19 Futures Games since the event started in 1999.
Honeywell was impressive during his two innings, allowing one single while striking out four.
"I try to treat every game the same, including this one," Honeywell said. "There's just a lot more people watching than we get in Durham."
"Honeywell did a great job setting the tempo for the guys to go in," Johnson said.
The U.S. showed it could flash some leather, too. Brendan Rodgers (Rockies No. 1, MLB No.10) swallowed up a laser off the bat of Josh Naylor (Padres No. 13) to open the third inning, though the highlight of the inning would take place one out later.
Michael Kopech (White Sox No. 2, MLB No. 11) and Yoan Moncada (White Sox and MLB No. 1) -- both of whom were traded to the White Sox in the Chris Sale trade last winter -- squared off with two outs. Kopech won the battle, striking Moncada out on four pitches as he blew three straight fastballs -- 99, 100 and 101 mph, respectively -- by him to end the inning.
"It was more fun than anything," Kopech said. "He actually looked up and smiled and I gave him a little wink afterward. Having a little friendly competition, it was a lot of fun."
But the World wasn't going down without a fight.
After watching the U.S. pitchers sit down 14 of the first 15 batters to open the game, the World finally got on the board with a two-out rally in the fifth and added two more runs in the sixth.
Tomas Nido (Mets No. 9) added an RBI single in the seventh for the World's fourth run.
"It's unbelievable," Lucius Fox (Rays No. 14) said. "All the talent on the U.S. side and also on the World side, just interacting with these guys from all over the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Canada. It's just an unbelievable experience and a dream come true."
The U.S. bullpen appeared to regain control of the game after Jimmy Herget (Reds No. 17) threw a perfect eighth and McKenzie got the first out in the ninth. Johnson called on Puk to close the game, something that proved quite challenging.
After Estevan Florial (Yankees No. 15) drew a one-out walk, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit a foul pop that first baseman Ryan McMahon (Rockies No. 4) somehow caught as he laid out over the World's dugout railing. Florial advanced to second on the play, allowing him to score on Yordan Alvarez's (Astros No. 14) single.
"I blacked out," McMahon said of his memorable catch. "I was chasing the ball and next thing I knew I was over the railing catching it."
Nido followed with an RBI single -- his second of the game -- to bring the World within a run, but Puk settled down to seal the victory.
Even in defeat, the World players left Marlins Park energized by the amount of talent on the field.
"It was a very good experience," Ronald Acuna (Braves No. 7) said. "We wanted to have fun and to play baseball and we did it."
On Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. ET, tune in to the 2017 All-Star Game presented by Mastercard live on FOX, and during the game visit MLB.com to submit your choice for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet via the 2017 MLB All-Star Game MVP Vote. The 88th All-Star Game, in Miami, will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 160 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB.com, MLB Network and SiriusXM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.
Mark Feinsand, an executive reporter, originally joined MLB.com as a reporter in 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.