Paul Molitor voted. Torii Hunter said he has, too. Even fellow Mississippian Brett Favre, of all people, recorded a video urging fans of both sports to go online and, as the ubiquitous signage at Target Field insists, #VoteDozier.
Too bad there’s no way to #VoteMilone, too.
Hashtags aside, Dozier’s All-Star case just keeps getting stronger: For the second time in three games Wednesday, the second baseman smacked a home run that put the Twins ahead for good, helping Minnesota finish off a sweep of the Orioles, 5-3.
But Dozier, who so far occupies second place in MLB’s “Final Vote” runoff for the last AL All-Star spot, isn’t the only Twins player enjoying a season worth rewarding. Milone pitched his sixth consecutive quality start on Wednesday, the Twins’ longest such streak of the season, and shut down one of the AL’s top slugging offenses on just five hits over seven innings.
“He looks just like he did when he was in Rochester,” said catcher Eric Fryer, who was reunited with his former Red Wings batterymate on Wednesday and contributed two hits and two RBI to his cause. “It was like a video game. Guys had no chance.”
Milone has been a different pitcher since he returned from the minors on June 4. The difference is not in his pitches but in his mind. “I feel like I’m pretty similar” to earlier in the season, when he posted a 4.76 ERA in April and lost his job. His ERA in seven starts since coming back? 1.84.
“It’s just a confidence thing,” Milone said. “I bring the confidence from the last game into the next one. Just stay with what’s working and keep it rolling.”
Nobody keeps it rolling like Glen Perkins these days, and he made a little history by doing so. The Twins’ All-Star closer — nobody needs to #VotePerkins, because his fellow AL players already did — needed only six pitches to dispatch three Orioles in the ninth, recording his 28th consecutive save. That breaks Joe Nathan’s franchise record of 27 in a row, and makes life really easy on his manager.
“It’s great to have Glen there at the end,” said Molitor, whose team is 39-0 when leading after eight innings, “continuing what he’s doing.”
If Perkins will have any company at Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park on Tuesday, though, Dozier voters will have to rally, just the way Dozier himself did. He led off the first inning with a single, then stole second and third base, where he was stranded. He ended innings in his next two at-bats, striking out and grounding out.
But with the Twins trailing 1-0 in the sixth, mostly because they were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position by that time, Dozier changed the tenor of the game with one swing, cracking a 1-2 fastball from Orioles reliever Bud Norris into the left-field seats. The homer, his 18th, turned a Twins deficit into a lead, the first time he’s done that this year.
As if to punctuate the turn in momentum, Joe Mauer followed with a homer as well, the Twins’ first back-to-back shots this season.
The Twins added two more runs in the seventh, with Fryer’s two-out, two-run double providing insurance runs that came in handy when Casey Fien gave up back-to-back homers, too, to Manny Machado and Chris Davis in the eighth. But the Twins held on to finish off their first sweep of the Orioles since Aug. 23-27, 2007, mostly thanks to Dozier’s walk-off homer Monday and his lead-changing homer Wednesday.
“I hope people pay attention. Sometimes it’s more of a populist vote than a performance vote,” Molitor said of Dozier’s hashtag-heavy campaign. “The other candidates are certainly worthy, but you couldn’t ask for more from a first-half performance. I hope he gets rewarded by getting a chance to go to Cincinnati.”