CLEVELAND – As Ketel Marte stood on second base after his leadoff double in the third inning of Tuesday’s All-Star Game, Jose Berrios turned around on the pitcher’s mound and said something unusual to him: Thank you.
“He said thank you for getting a double, so he could face Javy Baez,” said shortstop Jorge Polanco, who was standing next to Marte. “He was happy to get to face him.”
That’s because Berrios and Baez are lifelong friends who grew up in the same small town — Bayamon, Puerto Rico — and wound up marrying sisters. So after Berrios struck out Ronald Acuna on an unhittable curveball, and caught Christian Yelich looking with a changeup, the brothers-in-law faced each other on a baseball diamond for the second time as professionals. For the second time as All-Stars.
“Tonight is a special night for us. I tried to do eye contact, and we did it,” Berrios said. “We just smiled and enjoyed.”
And Berrios proceeded to throw a changeup that the Cubs shortstop lofted into shallow left field, an even more harmless pop fly than Baez’s fly out to right during last year’s All-Star Game in Washington.
“Last year I think he threw me four fastballs in a row, so I knew he was going to throw me a first-pitch curveball [or] slider or something,” Baez said. “I just missed it a little bit, but it was fun. It was fun facing him in a game.”
It was fun for Berrios to throw a scoreless All-Star inning for the second straight season, too. Along with Polanco’s infield hit that drove in a run, “the Twins showed pretty well tonight,” said Jake Odorizzi, the third Twins All-Star who watched the game from the dugout.
Certainly Polanco, elected to start at short, will never forget it.
“It was awesome. It was awesome,” he said of his fifth-inning single off Dodgers righthander Walker Buehler. “I faced a really good guy and I made contact with him. I got a base hit.”
It was sharp ground ball to second baseman Max Muncy’s right, a ball that he knocked down but could not quickly pick up. Polanco easily beat the throw as Gary Sanchez scored from third base to give the American League a 2-0 lead in a game they eventually won, 4-3.
“I was just trying to have fun, first, and bring the run in,” Polanco said.
His hit allowed him to forget about his first at-bat, an inning-ending strikeout against Clayton Kershaw. The at-bat ended with a vintage Kershaw curveball, 72 mph and dropping straight down.
So was Berrios trying to have fun, and he won’t soon forget facing his brother-in-law.
“Someone’s got bragging rights at family get-togethers for awhile,” Odorizzi said with a laugh.
“I told him to take it easy with me because I already had one strikeout,” Baez joked. Fellow Puerto Rican Francisco Lindor heckled him, too. “It was really fun being out there and around these guys.”
“It was a great moment for me, for [Baez], my family, his family. We are all together here,” Berrios said. “What happened out there, that’s what we wanted tonight.”