What a way to kick off a campaign.
Brian Dozier got the pitch he was looking for in the 10th inning on Monday night and drove it into the left field stands for a two-run, walk-off home run to lift the Twins to a 4-2 victory over the Orioles.
He led the Twins to a win in their final at-bat after watching it happen to them in two of their previous three games.
He also delivered quite an opening statement, because he was announced as one of the candidates in the running for the final spot on the American League All-Star team.
“A much-needed win tonight,” Dozier said. “That’s really the only thing on my mind.”
After splitting four games in Kansas City — losing two one-run games in the final inning — the Twins rebounded against an Orioles team that began the day tied with them for the final AL wild-card spot. All the runs scored came via home runs Monday, making for an entertaining game in front of an announced crowd of 23,213 at Target Field.
“Extra innings can be a little nerve-racking,” said Twins righthander Phil Hughes, who started and pitched 6 ⅓ innings. “Especially coming off a couple tough losses when we had to watch Kansas City walk us off. To get one of our own to open up the homestand is huge for us.”
Aaron Hicks homered but saved the Twins in the fourth inning with a running, back-to-the-infield catch that might be one of the plays of the year. Trevor May, in his first relief outing since being removed from the rotation, pitched an inning and got the victory.
Manny Machado hit the second pitch of the game over the right-center field wall to open the scoring, but Twins outfielder Torii Hunter homered off Orioles lefthander Wei-Yin Chen in the bottom of the inning to tie the score.
Hicks attempted to put his stamp on the game. First, he hit a 433-foot homer into the home bullpen in the second inning, giving the Twins a 2-1 lead. Then came the catch.
With a runner on first and two outs, former Twin Chris Parmelee hammered a Hughes pitch toward the bullpens. Hicks turned his back to the infield as he sprinted toward the fence. He looked over his shoulder at the ball, then checked to see where the fence was before locating the ball again. He then stuck out his glove to make an over-the-shoulder catch to end the inning as the crowd roared.
“I ran to a spot where I thought it was going to be at,” Hicks said. “I looked back again, and it wasn’t there anymore. I just looked over my head and there it was, coming through. I was able to make the catch.
All-Star outfielder Adam Jones got ahold of high Hughes pitch and drove it near the top of the left-field foul pole for a tying homer in the sixth. Hughes gave up two earned runs on nine hits and one walk with three strikeouts. Chen held the Twins to two runs over seven innings on four hits and three walks with five strikeouts.
It came down to a battle of bullpens, but Dozier got a fastball from righthander Tommy Hunter and ended the game.
First step to Cincinnati for the Midsummer Classic?
“There’s a chance to get in with this final vote,” Dozier said. “If it happens, it happens. I promise you I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.”