Brian Dozier pumped his right fist in the air as he rounded first base. It was fitting he used his right hand, because he came up with the right hit at the right time to right field.
Dozier’s two-run, opposite field homer helped lift the Twins to a 5-3 victory over Tampa Bay on Saturday, rescuing a game that was bogged down by laboring pitchers and fruitless at-bats. Dozier’s blow was just the third hit of the game with runners in scoring position — for either team — at the time. And it happened when, with the Rays infield shifted for him to pull to the left side, he was just trying to make solid contact.
It also shows you can hit home runs when you aren’t trying to.
“You take what the game gives you,” Dozier said. “Always remember, homers aren’t hit, they are thrown.”
Dozier was able to take advantage of a sinking fastball thrown by Rays reliever Tommy Hunter to break a 2-2 tie in the eighth inning.
Chris Gimenez walked to begin the eighth. Eddie Rosario sacrificed him to second, Ehire Adrianza grounded out to first as Gimenez pulled into third, and Hunter was summoned to replace fellow righthander Danny Farquhar.
Dozier was 2-for-8 with a home run in his career against Hunter, but sounded as if he was seeing an old friend.
“I have faced Tommy a lot,” Dozier said. “He has a good fastball. He threw me a 2-0 sinker, middle in, that was pretty good. Usually it’s cutting at 97 [miles per hour]. That was the first time I’ve seen the sinker, and I swung over it.
“He shook [the catcher], and I figured he was going to try to back door it again. So I just went with it. You are not thinking homer there, especially with that right side open. Looking for something to drive.”
It was Dozier’s seventh home run of the season, but only five of his 124 career homers have been to the opposite field.
The Rays know Dozier is a notorious high-ball hitter, so they gave him credit for driving a pitch in the bottom part of the strike zone an estimated 426 feet to right field.
“You can’t really say it was a good pitch because the guy hit it 485 feet,” Hunter said. “It was what I wanted to throw, and it was close to where I wanted it. He beat me.”
The Twins weren’t done. Joe Mauer doubled and Byron Buxton singled him home for a 5-2 lead. Colby Rasmus homered with two out in the ninth but Brandon Kintzler finished the Rays off for his 13th save, this one in relief of winner Taylor Rogers.
Tampa Bay entered Saturday ranked 17th in batting average with runners in scoring position (.249). The Twins were 20th (.237). And the offenses were far from well-oiled machines early on, combining to go 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position against the starting pitchers, the Twins’ Adalberto Mejia and the Rays’ Jake Odorizzi.
Tampa Bay took a 1-0 lead in the second on an RBI single by Derek Norris, only for the Twins to tie it up in the bottom of the inning on a sacrifice fly by Adrianza.
Norris hit a sacrifice fly in the fourth, but Rosario tied it in the bottom of the inning with a home run into the upper deck in right.
The game crawled into the late innings, needing something decisive to happen. And Dozier provided that.
“Just enough offense to hang around,” Molitor said, “and then make it interesting until we get a big hit from Brian.”