CHICAGO – Eduardo Escobar, still in full uniform, walked out of the clubhouse door after the Twins’ 6-4 victory over the White Sox, spotted Ozzie Guillen holding court in the hallway, and rushed over for a big bear hug from his former manager.
“Coming here [as a rookie in 2011], I [didn’t] play every day,” Escobar said of his days with the Sox. “Ozzie said, ‘This guy needs to play every day.’ ”
Ozzie’s got an eye for talent. Escobar hit two home runs with his fellow Venezuelan whom he describes as “my father” in the crowd, doubled home another run, and drew a walk, helping to power the Twins to their first road victory in exactly a month. Logan Morrison also homered, and Brian Dozier, hitting somewhere but his normal leadoff spot for the first time in two seasons, finished a double short of the cycle as the Twins won for only the third time in their last 15 games.
Escobar, the utility infielder who keeps earning considerable playing time every year, is now the Twins’ unlikely home run leader, passing Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario and Dozier for that honor with his fifth and sixth of the season.
Is he a power hitter now?
“I’m not a home run hitter, you know. When I come to home plate, I’m looking for a quality at-bat. Swing hard at the ball,” Escobar said. “I’m surprised with two homers today. But I did it last year, too. I’m so happy. If you hit two home runs, it’s a good day.”
It was a good day, and clearly a big relief, for a team that had lost eight consecutive games as the visitors, dating back to Pittsburgh on April 4 — and for a lot of notable Twins, too. Best of all, it was a nice slump-breaking night for Dozier, too, after a 3-for-40 stretch over the past 10 games. The second baseman tripled in his first at-bat and homered in his second, the first time since that April 4 game that he had reached the seats. He singled in the seventh and came to the plate in the ninth needing only a double to become the 11th Twins player, and first since Michael Cuddyer in 2009, to hit for the cycle.
“I really wasn’t thinking too much about it, but Rosario came up to me as I’m going on deck and says, ‘Hey are you going to hit a double?’ ” Dozier said. But on an 0-2 count, he lofted a fly ball to shallow center field, and Adam Engel made a running catch. “It wasn’t carrying to right, that last one,” Dozier said. “So yeah, I choked,” he joked.
Will he stay out of the leadoff spot? Not since July 30, 2016, had anyone hit ahead of him, but Dozier said when manager Paul Molitor told him he wanted to try it for a day, he was fine with it. “It worked out. We won,” Dozier said. “Whatever Skip wants, we do. I’m fine [hitting] wherever.”
One other player got some relief Friday, but it took awhile. Jose Berrios earned his third victory of the season, and though it came with four runs over six innings, it still felt like a minor breakthrough.
“Jose hung in there. He hung a slider [to Jose Abreu, who homered] in the first inning, and gave up the homer [to Leury Garcia] on the changeup to the opposite field,” Molitor said. “But he got through six innings and threw a lot more strikes. I thought he stayed composed after [giving up] a couple of runs. … We’ve been searching for wins, so you don’t get too picky about how they come.”
This one even came with a vintage Fernando Rodney performance, his first 1-2-3 save of the season, closing it out by getting the dangerous Abreu on a ground ball.
“He’s throwing it over. His changeup was effective, velocity was there,” Molitor said. “If we can start getting him a little more frequent work, he’ll get even better. He seems to be getting on track.”
Maybe a lot of Twins are, for a change.