Joey Gallo (Rangers) followed up an awe-inspiring session of batting practice by powering Team USA to a victory over the World Team in the 2014 Futures Game, held at Target Field in Minnesota as part of the All-Star Game festivities. The U.S. team had fallen behind 2-1 when Javier Baez (Cubs) smoked a Lucas Giolito (Nationals) curve ball to the opposite field for a two-run home run in the sixth inning. Gallo answered with a one-out, two-run moon shot in the bottom half of the inning to put his team back up 3-2. As a result, Gallo earned Futures Game MVP honors.
Henry Owens (Red Sox) started and pitched a scoreless inning for the U.S. Jose Berrios (Twins) started and pitched a scoreless inning for the World team. Catcher Kevin Plawecki (Mets) drove in the game’s first run with a third-inning ground out, scoring Jesse Winkler (Reds), who had doubled to lead off the inning against Edwin Escobar (Giants).
Noah Syndergaard (Mets) took the hill in the ninth inning and retired Steven Moya (Tigers) and Domingo Santana (Astros) quickly. Rosell Herrera (Rockies) kept hope alive with a two-out single, but Maikel Franco (Phillies) flied out to center to end the ballgame.
The All-Star Game festivities will continue on Monday with the Home Run Derby, which will start at 8 PM ET on ESPN.
The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.
In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.
The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.
Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”
It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.
It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.