Brian Dozier is having the best season of his career, and in the Twins’ three-game sweep of the Orioles the second baseman went 3-for-12, hit two two-run homers, and drove in five runs.
Dozier was named one of the five finalists for the final American League All-Star spot, and it’s easy to see why. He is now hitting .260 with a .332 on-base percentage and a .520 slugging percentage, which is the best mark of any second baseman in baseball. He also leads second basemen in runs (64), home runs (18) and RBI (45), and leads the American League with 47 extra-base hits.
He has been perhaps the Twins’ most important offensive player this season, and manager Paul Molitor says he deserves to go to Cincinnati to represent the Twins.
“I hope people pay attention,” Molitor said following the Twins’ 5-3 win on Wednesday. “It’s more of a populist vote than a performance vote. The other candidates are certainly worthy, and that’s why they’re there. But for the leadoff position and the numbers he has, defensively you couldn’t ask for more for a first-half performance. I hope he gets rewarded with a chance to go to Cincinnati. We can’t control that. I have my vote in, so we’ll see what happens.”
Dozier is posting career highs in batting average and slugging percentage, his defensive fielding percentage of .993 is the best he’s ever had, and his three errors are tied for third fewest in the American League among qualified second baseman.
Dozier was asked what has made this season so different not only for him but for the Twins as a team.
“I think you kind of feed off of each other,” he said. “Everybody in this locker room is pretty much having a good year. Hitting is contagious, you feed off each other. It’s a lot of fun. We win a lot more, and it makes it a lot more fun, too.”
Dozier hit a career-high 23 home runs last year but already has 18 this season and is on pace to hit 35 home runs this season, a number that hasn’t been reached by a Twins player since Josh Willingham in 2012.
“I hit a few last year,” Dozier said. “I don’t know. I guess I’m just hitting them at the right parks and everything is going all right.”
Dozier’s two homers in this series were as big as he’s ever hit, with one giving the Twins the win on Monday and another giving them the lead on Wednesday.
He described the moment of hitting the two-run shot in the sixth inning Wednesday.
“It was a big moment of the game,” he said. “I don’t know why I keep bringing [Mike] Pelfrey in on this, but I’m walking to the plate and he yells out the same exact thing, ‘Do something today, Rook.’ I looked back and smiled at him and it just so happened I hit another homer.”
Dozier said the Twins feel like they can keep their momentum going through the second half of the season.
“For the first part of the season it has always been we’re never really out of it,” he said. “When you have that mentality as an offensive group that can go a long ways.”
But can they win the AL Central, with Kansas City proving to be a dominant squad?
“I believe so,” he said “It’s a long way out, and we have another half of a season to go. You don’t want to get ahead of yourself, but we’re playing good baseball right now, and I feel like we’re right where we need to be.”
Favre and charity
Dozier said he has appreciated the amount of support he has received from the Twins in trying to get him to the All-Star Game, but he didn’t know that former Vikings quarterback Brett Favre had recorded a special video to get fans to vote for Dozier that played at the game Wednesday.
Favre was in town earlier this season to watch Dozier play; both are from Mississippi and attended Southern Miss.
“He’s a big supporter, and I saw the thing today and he surprised me with it,” Dozier said. “That’s always good. I need to shoot him a text and tell him thank you. He does a lot back home, and we do a lot of charity work and stuff.”
Speaking of charity, Dozier talked about one of his biggest passions, working with a nonprofit organization called Amigos for Christ with his wife during every offseason.
“We go to Nicaragua every offseason for the Amigos for Christ organization, and we do that every offseason for about a week,” he said. “We give back a little bit, and we enjoy doing that.”
Twins at the break
The last time the Twins were over .500 at the All-Star break was in 2010, when they were 46-42 on July 11. At that point they were in third place in the division and 3½ games out of first place but went on to win the Central by six games. That was the last time they reached the playoffs.
It will be interesting to see what the Twins do with Oswaldo Arcia, who started the season with the Twins and hit .276 in 19 games before being injured and has now hit four home runs in the past five games at Rochester and five in the past seven. … The Twins swept Baltimore for the first time since Aug. 23-26, 2007. … Former Twin Chris Parmelee, who signed as a free agent with the Orioles, is playing first base for the team and hitting. 234.
• The preseason watch list for the Chuck Bednarik Award, which is presented each year to the best defensive player in college football, was released Wednesday, and Briean Boddy-Calhoun and Eric Murray, two Gophers cornerbacks, made the list, which speaks to Jerry Kill’s belief that the Gophers may have the best defensive backfield in the Big Ten.
• Baseball America released its midseason top-50 prospects report and since so many of the Twins’ top prospects have been called up to the major leagues, only pitcher Jose Berrios remains on the list, at No. 19 overall. Baseball America wrote about Berrios that “scouts wish Berrios’ fastball had more plane, but he’s nearly ready to be a solid mid-rotation starter.”
• Apple Valley basketball star Gary Trent scored all of his 19 points in the second half while playing for USA Basketball’s Under-16 team that beat Canada for the FIBA Americas gold medal and was named the Most Valuable Player. Tre Jones of Apple Valley set a USA U16 record by making 19 steals in the tournament.
• Former Gophers basketball player Wally Ellenson took fifth in the NCAA high jump final in June and earned his third straight All-America designation. Ellenson, a junior at Marquette, cleared 2.19 meters (7 feet, 2¼ inches).
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