Brian Dozier was stone-faced as he circled the bases in the eighth inning Monday, didn’t crack a smile as he accepted high-fived congratulations in the Twins dugout, then took the most halfhearted curtain call in Target Field history. Dozier is accomplishing some monumental feats — he’s within range of hitting the most home runs by a second baseman in baseball history, for example — yet nobody seems to be enjoying his incredible success less.
“It is what it is,” Dozier said blandly after his bat spoke prodigiously, crushing three home runs and making him only the sixth Twins player ever to enjoy — sort of — such an amazing day. The curtain call “was kind of awkward. I really didn’t know what to do.”
That’s because, amid the array of records and milestones that mount by the day, this one weighs on him most: Dozier has now hit 21 home runs in Twins losses, one short of Harmon Killebrew’s team record. Monday’s score was Royals 11, Twins 5, the 16th loss in 18 games for Dozier and his teammates.
He has never been hotter, but his team has never fared worse.
“We’re losing a lot of games, and that’s not fun. I hate losing more than anything, no matter if you hit homers or not,” Dozier said. “It tastes a lot better at the end of the day when you go home, you have a cold one, [and] you know you just beat the Royals. That didn’t happen.”
The Twins are 2-12 this season against the defending World Series champs, but that’s certainly not Dozier’s fault. Monday’s home runs brought his 2016 total against the Royals to 10, the most any opponent has ever hit in a season against them, and the second-most a Twins player has hit against one team. Killebrew hit 11 against the Kansas City A’s in 1961 and again against the Oakland A’s in 1969.
“You don’t see runs like this very often from anybody. They just keep coming,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said, and he’s not kidding. Dozier has homered in 18 of 35 games since July 31, meaning these days it’s more unusual when he doesn’t connect. “I read what Brian has to say about the losing. I don’t know if he’d really trade them all in — he probably would to win a few more, but he’s doing all he can to give us an opportunity.”
He did on the first pitch he saw, reaching out to blast an Ian Kennedy fastball to left-center for the 17th leadoff home run of his career. Two innings later, after fouling off five two-strike pitches, he cannoned a 3-2 fastball into the upper deck. And in the eighth inning, Dozier, well, pounded a pitch from Brooks Pounders, pulling it into the third deck.
“I’m certain he’s gotten a lot of fastballs, and he’s not missing many,” Molitor said. “In certain counts, [pitchers are] trying to make quality fastball pitches, and they’re getting in an area where he’s getting the barrel on it. He’s hitting them a long way.”
An estimated 1,276 feet worth Monday. And that’s hardly the only amazing number he has recorded this year. Check out everything the Twins second baseman has achieved, and try to figure out how he plays for the worst team in the sport:
• Dozier’s 38 home runs make him the only Twins player other than Killebrew to hit more than 35 in a season, something the Hall of Famer achieved eight times.
• Days after ending a 13-homer August, second in Twins history only to Killebrew’s 14 in June 1964, Dozier has six in September. He has homered in four consecutive games, too, which means he could tie Killebrew (three times) and Marty Cordova for the franchise record of five in a row Tuesday.
• He has 36 home runs playing second base this season (two were as a DH), leaving him three short of Alfonso Soriano’s AL record 39, set in 2002. Only three players have hit 40 home runs in a season as a second baseman: Ryne Sandberg (40 for the Cubs in 1992), Rogers Hornsby (42 for the Cardinals in 1922) and Davey Johnson (42 for the Braves in 1973, and one more as a pinch hitter).
• Dozier moved into second place in the majors in home runs this season; Baltimore’s Mark Trumbo has 41. No Twin has led the AL in homers since Killebrew in 1969; none has finished in the top five since Gary Gaetti was fourth with 34 in 1986.
“Who’s leading, Trumbo?” Molitor cracked. “Well, let’s see where we are at the end of tomorrow.”