CINCINNATI – Brian Dozier had one shot Tuesday night to show everyone at Great American Ball Park why he deserved a place on the American League All-Star team.
Boy, did he come through.
Facing Pittsburgh closer Mark Melancon in the eighth inning, Dozier pounded a 1-2 pitch to center field that cleared the fence for a solo home run and put an exclamation point on the AL’s 6-3 victory over the National League in the 86th All-Star Game.
The last man added to the team left one big impression as the AL, which got a leadoff home run from game MVP Mike Trout of the Angels, won for the third consecutive time. Dozier, who swatted 19 home runs over the Twins’ first 88 games, joined Harmon Killebrew (1961, ’65 and ’71) and Kirby Puckett (1993) as Twins who have homered in the All-Star Game.
“I don’t deserve to be in that company,” said Dozier, unaware of who was already in the club he was joining. “I don’t deserve that.”
His home run, however, stole a little of his teammate’s thunder. The clout put the AL ahead 6-2 at the time, eliminating a save situation. Twins closer Glen Perkins gave up a run in the ninth on a leadoff triple by the Brewers’ Ryan Braun and sacrifice fly by the Giants’ Brandon Crawford. Perkins, who got the save for the AL last year at Target Field, missed a chance to become the first pitcher to save consecutive All-Star Games since the Yankees’ Mariano Rivera did it in 2005-06.
“I’ve already given him grief,” Perkins said. “No, that’s exciting. I’m excited for him. We won and I got to pitch, he got to hit and he hit a home run. That’s awesome. That could not work out any better.”
Dozier had some trouble putting his past week into words. He hit two walk-off home runs in a span of five days. Yet he failed to make the AL team through the fan vote for starters, the player vote for reserves and the online vote for the final spot on the team.
He was added when Toronto’s Jose Bautista pulled out because of an injury. Then he wasn’t sure if he was going to play, while a group of relatives traveled from Mississippi to Cincinnati for the event.
When he was told to bat for the Indians’ Jason Kipnis in the eighth, he said he was nervous getting in the batter’s box.
“My family was here, waiting to see if I was going to get in or not,” he said. “I could kind of feel that from them.”
But when Melancon left a breaking ball over too much of the plate, Dozier crushed it.
“I knew it was gone off the bat,” Perkins said.
Dozier circled the bases, and Kipnis was the first to greet him in the dugout with a hug. Dozier is the 16th player to homer in his first All-Star Game at-bat, the first since Melky Cabrera in 2012.
It capped an eventful week for Dozier, whose heroics helped the Twins win six of seven games before the break.
“Everything last week, up to this point, has been a flood of emotions,” Dozier said. “All good ones. From the support of Twins family back home, winning six of seven coming into the break and coming here. It has been pretty cool.”
An announced crowd of 43,656 — the fifth-largest crowd in stadium history — was charged up by Pete Rose’s first appearance ever in the park that opened in 2003. The Hit King, banned from baseball for gambling, was allowed to attend after he was named one of the four greatest Reds players. Fans then settled in and saw firsthand why Trout is the next great thing in the game.
Last year’s MVP in the game at Target Field, Trout led off and hit a 1-2 pitch just over the right field wall to open the scoring. The NL tied the score in the second on an RBI single by the Cardinals’ Jhonny Peralta. The AL scored twice against Dodgers lefthander Clayton Kershaw in the fifth to take a 3-1 lead. A homer by Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen off the Rays’ Chris Archer made it 3-2 in the sixth before the AL added two more runs in the seventh to take a 5-2 lead.
The AL bullpen was stocked with big arms, but the plan all along was to give the ball to Perkins to finish the game. He was the last man standing by design, but Dozier’s blast snatched the save opportunity away from him.
“Yeah,” Dozier said. “My bad, Perk.”