MINNEAPOLIS — This is how they dreamed it would happen.
With the American League leading 5-3 heading into the top of the ninth inning in Tuesday’s All-Star Game, neither Glen Perkins nor Kurt Suzuki had taken the field yet. AL manager John Farrell purposely saved the two Minnesota Twins representatives for the end.
Out jogged Perkins, accompanied by the familiar strains of "Crowd Chant" by Joe Satriani, the same song he’s been using during the regular season. When he got to the pitcher’s mound, he stood 60 feet, six inches away from Suzuki, who was playing in his first All-Star Game. The Twins teammates paired up for a scoreless ninth inning to help the American League clinch the 85th All-Star Game.
Together, these two gave the hometown fans at Target Field exactly what they hoped for.
"I think my expectations, and more," Perkins said. "The first thing I told myself when I got on the field was, ‘Slow down,’ which usually isn’t a problem for me jogging in. . . . Coming in there and hearing the reception and how loud the fans were, that makes me want to get the playoffs. It felt like a playoff atmosphere out there tonight."
Perkins said before the game that he had been assured by Farrell that he’d pitch at some point Tuesday. The hope was to use Perkins as late in the game as possible. So when the American League took a 5-3 lead in the fifth inning and continued to hold on to its two-run advantage, it seemed inevitable that Perkins would get the chance at the save.
Suzuki remained on the bench through the first eight innings as the American League used catchers Salvador Perez and Derek Norris before him. Yet when the bullpen door opened and Perkins came out in the ninth, there was no other logical choice than to have Suzuki catch him.
Like the duo does every time Perkins comes in for a save, they briefly exchanged words on the mound to go over the game plan. Nine pitches later, Perkins locked down the save and celebrated with his battery mate.
"It was great. I couldn’t be happier coming in the ninth right there when Perk comes in with the lead," Suzuki said. "It was phenomenal."
Added Farrell: "It fell in our laps a little bit to show two hometown guys and send this game off the right way."
Perkins worked quickly to help save the American League’s 5-3 victory. He got Miguel Montero to fly out to center fielder Michael Brantley for the first out before striking out Pittsburgh’s Josh Harrison with a slider.
That’s when the Target Field crowd, sensing what was about to happen, starting chanting the Twins closer’s name as "Let’s go Perkins!" rained down on the Minnesota native.
"That doesn’t happen during the regular season," Perkins said.
Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon hit a slow roller to second base on the second pitch of the at-bat, and Detroit’s Ian Kinsler made the easy throw to first baseman Jose Abreu for the final out. Fans all throughout the ballpark erupted as the American League — thanks to Perkins and Suzuki — nailed down the win.
Suzuki, who batted .309 with 37 RBI in 79 games leading up to the All-Star break, didn’t have an at-bat in Tuesday’s game. He instead watched from the bench as Angels outfielder Mike Trout drove in a pair of runs en route to winning the All-Star Game’s Most Valuable Player Award.
Yet even though he never swung a bat, Suzuki’s All-Star experience — his first in eight major league seasons — was one he won’t soon forget.
"Honestly, to tell you the truth, whether I played or not, it was just an honor to be here and a privilege to be here," Suzuki said. "Whatever way I could have helped the team win, whether I had an at-bat or whether I came in with Perk, it was definitely something I’ll never forget. I definitely had a great time."
It was a slightly disappointing first half of the season for Twins fans, whose team had lost 96 or more games in the three previous seasons. Minnesota came into the All-Star break with a 44-50 record, which puts the Twins dead last in the American League Central.
But Tuesday was a chance to put all of that aside and forget about the team’s struggles. On this night, two Twins helped the American League get a win, and they did so in their own park in front of their home fans.
"I wasn’t fighting back tears, but it was an overwhelming moment to hear the buildup as I walked out of the pen, and then it got louder and louder," Perkins said. "It was a moment like that where you realize why you play the game and what makes the game so fun, and it’s the fans in the stands."