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Eventful All-Star Game 'a blast' for Astros

Springer, Bregman, Brantley get first 3 hits for AL; Verlander sharp
@RichardJustice
July 10, 2019

CLEVELAND -- Justin Verlander seemed to have the most fun, and Michael Brantley got some of the loudest cheers. As for George Springer and Alex Bregman, they did their usual thing. “It was a good day for us,” Springer would say later. “I get the privilege of playing with these

CLEVELAND -- Justin Verlander seemed to have the most fun, and Michael Brantley got some of the loudest cheers. As for George Springer and Alex Bregman, they did their usual thing.

“It was a good day for us,” Springer would say later. “I get the privilege of playing with these guys every day. To play with them here is something special.”

Even better is how the Astros made their presence felt at the beginning of the All-Star Game presented by Mastercard on Tuesday night at Progressive Field. Long before the American League finished off a 4-3 victory over the National League, Verlander started for the AL and pitched a scoreless first inning.

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His three teammates then made some history by becoming the first teammates to get the first three hits of an All-Star Game, according to Stats by STATS.

“This is just an exhibition, but we have a lot of talent,” Verlander said. “We have a special ballclub and special players, and we’re well represented here.”

The Astros led the AL with six players on the team, and none of them had looked forward to the game more than Brantley, who played the first 10 of his 11 Major League seasons and made three All-Star teams as a member of the Indians.

Indians fans remembered, too, and gave him a nice ovation as he stepped into the batter’s box in the bottom of the second inning.

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“I had some tingles down my spine,” Brantley said. “I was trying to embrace the moment, enjoy the moment. I had a big smile on my face. I don’t smile too much on the baseball field. But you get a reception like that, you have to smile.

"That’s what we play for. We play for the fans. To come back here and do it in front of them, and playing left field and hearing the chants behind you make it all even more special.”

Brantley answered those cheers by slamming a double into the gap in left-center field to score Bregman from first base for a 1-0 AL lead. He raised both hands above his head at second base and gestured and smiled toward the AL dugout. That gesture elicited more cheers. Those two hits in the second came after Springer led off the first with a single and was stranded at third base.

“That’s one of the things I’ll always remember from Cleveland,” Brantley said. “[That’s] the support they gave me throughout the 10 years I was here. The ups and downs, the good seasons, the bad seasons we had as a team. They were always positive, and I appreciate it very much.”

His teammates had kidded him about the ovation he was about to get before the introductions were made. But that kidding also carried a message. In a short time in Houston, he has become respected as both a good teammate and a good player.

“Awesome,” Verlander said. “I mean, the guy’s such a special player, and obviously these fans here in Cleveland know that. They’ve seen him for so long. That was one of the things I was most looking forward to, his ovation.”

Two other Astros, reliever Ryan Pressly and right-hander Gerrit Cole, were part of the AL team, but, as expected, did not pitch. That did not make the selection any less significant.

“It was something I’ll always remember,” Pressly said. "It was awesome. It’s one of those things you don’t forget.”

For Bregman, he viewed his second All-Star selection as he had his first. That is, a young player spending time learning from the best of the best.

“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “Just being able to hang out and talk to all these guys, it was a blast. Being able to share it with them and talk baseball was a blast.”

Now about Verlander. His AL teammates got to see a side of him the Astros usually don’t. Instead of wearing headphones and getting locked into compete mode before the game, he laughed some, shook some hands and tried to soak in his eighth All-Star selection.

“I loved it,” Springer said. “He did a little bit of stuff he doesn’t normally do. He was himself out there, and that’s all that matters.”

Verlander had some more laughs when he squared off against Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman with two outs in the top of the first inning. Freeman, wired for sound and speaking to the FOX television crew, told Verlander before the game, “I’m going to homer off you.”

Before he stepped into the box, he told Verlander, “Throw me a heater.” Verlander threw him one, then eventually got him to take a breaking ball for strike three. Both players smiled and gestured at one another as the inning ended.

“I guess I talked myself into getting a lot of offspeed pitches,” Freeman said.

Verlander recounted the exchange, saying, “I went and listened to it after. I didn’t know he was talking with them. Funny he said he was looking for the heater up. I was yelling at him to swing the bat. He took the slider. Then he said, `Throw a strike.’ So I did, and he still didn’t swing. That was a fun back and forth.”

All in all, a good day for the Astros.

“Extremely proud,” Springer said. “For the organization to have six guys here and a couple of other guys who could be here and aren’t, I’m very, very proud of all of them and representing Houston and the organization.”

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