A couple of Labor Day extras:
Brian Dozier wasn’t the only Twin achieving a historic first on Monday. Eddie Rosario did something unique, too.
Rosario doubled to lead off the fourth inning, his 17th of the season, and with a 3-2 lead at the time, Twins manager Paul Molitor decided to move him up to third, where a sacrifice fly would score him. So he asked Eduardo Escobar to lay down a bunt.
Escobar did, but the play worked out better than the Twins could have imagined. His bunt rolled about 20 feet in front of the plate, in the direction of shortstop, and Royals catcher Salvador Perez hustled out to make the play. He picked up the ball and whirled to throw to first base, falling down as he did so. Third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert started toward the ball, but backed up toward third base when he saw Perez would field it.
And that’s when Rosario made a terrifically heads-up judgement. As he neared third base, he saw Perez fielding the ball, but no Royal running over to take his place at home plate. So Rosario simply sped up and rounded third base, catching the Royals defense by surprise. With nobody covering the plate, first baseman Eric Hosmer had to hold on to the ball while Rosario scored standing up.
It appears that Rosario’s play is unique in Twins history. Of the 2,714 sacrifice bunts the Twins have pulled off in their 56 seasons, Escobar’s bunt was the 88th to include credit for an RBI. But in all 87 of the previous instances, the runner who scored started on third base. Never before had a runner scored from second on a sacrifice bunt, without an error being the reason.
I wondered how often that play had occurred anywhere, and I didn’t have to look far. The Marlins pulled off the exact same play just three weeks ago, on Aug. 14 against the White Sox, with Ichiro Suzuki laying down a bunt, and Adeiny Hechavarria hustling home when Chicago catcher Omar Narvaez fields the ball.
A little more on Dozier: I noted in Paul Molitor’s postgame press conference that the Royals’ two home runs had produced six runs, while Brian Dozier’s three had driven in only four. Did Dozier’s home-run rampage make Molitor want to rethink batting Dozier in the leadoff spot, rather than lower in the order where he’s more likely to have runners on base?
No, the Twins’ manager said, and he clearly had given the matter a lot of thought. For one thing, Molitor said, part of Dozier’s home run production may have something to do with that leadoff spot — he has hit four homers as the Twins’ first batter of the game this season, and 17 for his career, perhaps in part because of pitchers’ mentality.
“When you lead off a game, a lot of [pitchers] like to throw first-ball fastballs even to a first-ball fastball hitter,” Molitor said. “They just try to get it in the right spot,” and frequently leave themselves vulnerable to a power hitter like Dozier.
But Molitor also said he’s not going to mess with something that’s working.
“As far as multi-run homers, he’s mixed in a few in this run,” Molitor said, and it’s true, though Dozier still has 26 bases-empty homers among his 38 for the year. “That’s why he’s up in the 90s in RBIs. He’s going to potentially have a 100-run scored, 100-RBI season [plus] double figures in stolen bases. Extra-base hits [in the] mid-70s, approaching 80. There’s just a lot of remarkable things. I’m not going to take him out of that spot just because of the roll he’s on, and the fact that, offensively, we seem to be scoring fairly well as a unit.”