DETROIT – Brian Dozier, the man who would argue with anyone who described him as a power hitter, can’t avoid the tag now.
In the third inning Monday night, the Twins star launched a Daniel Norris fastball over the left field fence and entered rare territory for a middle infielder. Dozier has hit 40 home runs, making him the fourth second baseman ever to reach that number. He joins Davey Johnson, Ryne Sandberg and Rogers Hornsby in the club.
“It stinks because they are going to expect this every year from me,” Dozier joked. “That’s the only thing.”
It was hard for Dozier to celebrate as it came on a night in which the Twins lost for the 91st time this season, 4-2 to the Tigers at Comerica Park.
Of Dozier’s 40 homers, 23 have come in losses. That has made it hard for him to fully enjoy one of the best power-hitting seasons in team history.
“At the end of the year, after everything is over, I can go home and reflect on the season,” he said. “I can reflect on the 40 a little bit more. Still, right now, if we were in the Tigers’ position or like Cleveland and can make a push, it might feel a little different.
“For me, it’s just another home run.”
With one swing, Dozier became the AL single-season home run leader among those who played second base as their primary position, breaking a tie with Alfonso Soriano in 2002. Two of Dozier’s home runs this year came as a designated hitter.
Dozier became only the second Twin ever to reach 40, joining Harmon Killebrew, who did it a whopping eight times in all, once when the team still was the Washington Senators. Dozier’s home run Monday was high and majestic, carrying over the leaping attempt of left fielder Justin Upton before landing in the Tigers bullpen. It was how Killer used to hit ’em.
Dozier’s homer canceled out a leadoff home run by Detroit’s Ian Kinsler. Kurt Suzuki then put the Twins up 2-1 in the fourth with a homer to left.
Ervin Santana kept Detroit from scoring after the Kinsler homer, but he labored through some at-bats, reached 95 pitches through five innings and was removed. His bullpen couldn’t hold the lead from there.
It vanished in the seventh when James McCann scored from first on Austin Romine’s one-out double off Alex Wimmers, barely beating a relay throw from left. Romine then scored on a sacrifice fly — also beating the throw on a close play at the plate — to put Detroit up 3-2. Miguel Cabrera added a solo shot in the eighth off Taylor Rogers, while the Twins’ late threats were snuffed by the Detroit bullpen.
Dozier has been one of the Twins’ few bright spots as the team flirts with setting a single-season club record for losses. He can end up with more than 100 runs scored and 100 RBI. It’s already the best single season by a Twin since Joe Mauer won the AL Most Valuable Player award in 2009. Dozier’s 6.0 WAR — wins against replacement, a measure of a player’s value — is 3.0 more than any of his teammates, and the Twins’ highest mark since Mauer’s 7.8 in 2009.
Dozier has been on everything, and reaching 40 Monday is a result of that.
“I’m really proud of what he’s been able to do,” manager Paul Molitor said. “I’m sure 39 is a number that is hard not to think about every time you go to the batter’s box. I’m pleased for him. Unfortunately it came in a game we were unable to win.’’