Brian Dozier didn’t listen to his first base coach, he tuned out his teammates, and he was ready to ignore his third base coach, too.
Dozier trusted his own read on Eduardo Escobar’s deep fly ball in the bottom of the ninth and was standing on second base when the baseball bounced off the warning track between two Detroit outfielders Wednesday. That gave him more than enough time to round third and score the winning run in the Twins’ dramatic 3-2 victory over the Tigers at frigid, half-empty Target Field.
“Everybody on the bench was yelling ‘Tag up!’ And he was the only one who did the right thing,” manager Ron Gardenhire said of Dozier’s aggressive baserunning. “I don’t know how he figured out they were going to miss that ball, but he did it.”
He did, and with pinch runner Jamey Carroll scoring the tying run ahead of him, Dozier didn’t hesitate as the Tigers scrambled to retrieve the ball and beat the relay to the plate. Third base coach Joe Vavra was waving him home, but that didn’t matter much, either.
“If he gave me the stop sign, I might have ran through it,” Dozier said. “Once it hit the wall, I was looking back over my shoulder and it had a high bounce. That’s when I knew I was safe.”
The Twins mobbed Escobar, the utility infielder who made his first at-bat of 2013 a big one by clobbering the first pitch he saw from Tigers kinda-sorta closer Phil Coke. But they would have been justified in hoisting Kevin Correia onto their shoulders, too, because his start was almost as thrilling to the pitching-poor Twins as the ninth-inning rally.
The righthander allowed only seven singles over seven innings, an encouraging sign for one of the cornerstones of the Twins’ rebuilt rotation. Reigning MVP Miguel Cabrera collected two of the hits, and both drove in runs.
But Correia walked only one, struck out two, and allowed no other runner other than the two who scored to reach third base in his seven-inning, 97-pitch outing.
That didn’t look like it would matter Wednesday, because the Twins’ luck against starter Anibal Sanchez was basically identical to their Monday outing against Justin Verlander — five innings, zero runs. Minnesota scored a run in the seventh when Wilkin Ramirez delivered a pinch-hit RBI double, but the Twins still trailed 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth.
When Trevor Plouffe walked, the Tigers turned to closer-of-the-moment Coke, who got a quick flyout, but surrendered an opposite-field single to Dozier. That brought up Escobar, the defensive-replacement shortstop, with one goal in mind.
“He felt he did his job because he put it in the air far enough [to score pinch runner Carroll on a sacrifice fly],” Ramirez said as Escobar’s interpreter. “But he never thinks about the ball going to go that far.”
Neither did anyone else. Dozier edged farther and farther toward second, ready to go back and tag up once it became apparent the ball would be caught. But Austin Jackson and Andy Dirks never caught up to it.
“He hit it better than I thought,” said Jackson, the center fielder who pulled up about five feet from where the ball bounced. “It’s hard to really call it when you see it in between like that. We’re both going after it hard.’’