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NL pitchers put on a show at Futures Game

@RichardJustice
July 8, 2019

CLEVELAND -- For eight innings, it was about the pitching. Specifically, it was about the National League pitching in Sunday’s SiriusXM Futures Game. The American League didn’t collect a hit until the fourth inning, didn’t get a runner into scoring position until the fifth and didn’t break through until rallying

CLEVELAND -- For eight innings, it was about the pitching. Specifically, it was about the National League pitching in Sunday’s SiriusXM Futures Game. The American League didn’t collect a hit until the fourth inning, didn’t get a runner into scoring position until the fifth and didn’t break through until rallying for two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning. The game ended in a 2-2 tie after eight innings.

“These kids on both sides,” NL manager Dennis Martinez said, “they can pitch. The arms are amazing.”

Some of baseball’s most pitching-rich organizations had some of their best arms on display. Ian Anderson (Braves), MacKenzie Gore (Padres) and Dustin May (Dodgers) were at their best in opening the game with a hitless inning apiece.

And that set a tone for eight innings as they were followed by Anthony Kay (Mets), Sixto Sanchez (Marlins) and Devin Williams (Brewers).

“It was exciting to be able to start and go out there and try to set the tone,” Anderson said. “It was cool. I was not expecting to start, and once I found out, the nerves kicked in a little bit. It was awesome.”

Anderson showed up at Progressive Field knowing the Futures Game has been one of the stages a long line of players used to put the finishing touches on their Minor League careers. So, yes, it matters. When Anderson pitched his hitless inning, then turned the game over to Gore for one of his own, he took a moment to reflect on it.

“I was talking with MacKenzie about it afterwards,” Anderson said, “and he said, `Man, I thought I was going to be way more nervous.’ I kind of felt the same way. We pitch for a living, so it’s a good thing to have to calm our nerves a little bit.”

One thing they have in common is pitching for organizations with lots of pitching and which have been aggressive in giving youngsters an opportunity.

“It’s cool,” Anderson said, “I think there’s a reason those guys are so good. You’re always being pushed in your organization. It’s a big part of growth as a player. I know it’s helped me out a tremendous amount.”

As he has watched Mike Soroka, Bryse Wilson, Kyle Wright and Touki Toussant help the Braves climb atop the NL East this season, Anderson knows that if he takes care of business, his turn will come.

“Definitely,” he said. “It’s encouraging. It’s also fun to watch those guys go up there and pitch really well. Those are some of my best friends in the organization, and we all root for each other. It’s awesome.”

Gore needed just one inning on a big stage to remind the Padres why they believe the 20-year-old left-hander is going to be so special. He's San Diego's No. 1 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline.

He showed off some of his gifts -- a 94 mph fastball and vaporizing slider -- in a one-inning stint. Gore walked Jo Adell to open the inning, then promptly showed off a quality pickoff move to get him at first.

“Yeah, I guess I just tried that at the right time,” Gore said. “It was nice.”

He finished his inning in 11 pitches while making another good case for his making his Major League debut sooner rather than later. Gore is MLB Pipeline’s No. 3 overall prospect and has been close to unhittable during a first half at Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore. In 15 starts, he has a 1.02 ERA with -- wait for it -- 20 walks and 110 strikeouts in 79 1/3 innings.

“The heart wasn’t beating as fast as I thought it was going to be,” Gore said. “That was good. It was a great experience to be here. But there are so many good players, you’ve just got to keep working and getting better.”

May, a 21-year-old Dodgers right-hander pitching for Triple-A Oklahoma City, was next up, pitching a scoreless third inning. Having seen the Dodgers promote a string of youngsters to the big leagues this season, he understands an opportunity could come at any time.

“Oh yeah, for sure,” May said. “It definitely gives you more of a thought process that you might actually make it soon. But it’s not up to you. You’ve got to wait for the phone call. Hopefully sooner rather than later, but I can’t control that.”

He said the experience of pitching in the Futures Game “is one of those little check marks you can mark off your bucket list. You know you’re in arm’s length of it. You’ve got to keep going and keep doing what you’re doing and hope you get the call one day.”

May, a 21-year-old Dodgers right-hander pitching for Triple-A Oklahoma City, was next up, pitching a scoreless third inning. Having seen the Dodgers promote a string of youngsters to the big leagues this season, he understands an opportunity could come at any time.

“Oh yeah, for sure,” May said. “It definitely gives you more of a thought process that you might actually make it soon. But it’s not up to you. You’ve got to wait for the phone call. Hopefully sooner rather than later, but I can’t control that.”

He said the experience of pitching in the Futures Game “is one of those little check marks you can mark off your bucket list. You know you’re in arm’s length of it. You’ve got to keep going and keep doing what you’re doing and hope you get the call one day.”

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.