At long last, after all the efforts to get baseball fans to #VoteDozier, Brian Dozier on Saturday found out what it feels like to be an All-Star. Even better: The Twins found out what it feels like to be the Tigers.
In a game interrupted by the news that Dozier will spend Tuesday night playing for the American League in Cincinnati, the Twins treated Detroit the way the Tigers have treated them most of the season, jumping to a big lead and coasting home. The Twins pounded Alfredo Simon for seven runs in the first three innings, assuring themselves at least a split of the weekend series with a 9-5 victory at Target Field.
“When you really try to beat a team that kind of has your number, and the losses keep mounting, it seem like the pressure builds a little bit,” manager Paul Molitor said. “I think that was alleviated a little bit by what we did last night.”
It looked like it. The Twins, outscored 66-33 by Detroit in their first 11 meetings this year, rode the momentum of Friday’s miraculous ninth-inning comeback to score seven runs while making only eight outs Saturday. Maybe it was just Simon’s ragged pitching; the 10-hit battering the Twins gave the righthander marked the fifth consecutive start he has given up five runs or more. Simon faced 16 batters and retired only five.
“Obviously a much-needed win,” Dozier said. “We could very easily come out flat, and wasted all that last night.”
It was a nice turnaround for a team that felt shellshocked by Detroit only two days earlier, when David Price silenced the Twins, dropping them to 2-8 in their season series. This time, they strung hits together — five in a row in the second inning, four straight in the third — to run their scoring streak to 15 consecutive runs, counting Friday, and give Twins starter Phil Hughes a nice cushion.
Hughes needed it. The Tigers scored three runs in the fourth inning and another in the fifth before he departed, albeit with his fourth victory in five starts.
“Phil came out pretty strong, but they started squaring him up a little bit,” Molitor said. “But he made a big pitch to get out of the fifth inning [by striking out J.D. Martinez], and it felt like the right time to get him out of there.”
For all the offense, the most memorable moment for fans might have come as the Twins took the field for the fourth inning, when the team announced that AL manager Ned Yost had selected Dozier to the All-Star team after all, as an injury replacement for Toronto outfielder Jose Bautista.
“It was unbelievable,” the second baseman said. “I can’t thank everybody enough.”
The next time Dozier came to the plate, he received another loud ovation — and then a fastball to the elbow. “It’s OK,” he said. “Some ice on it, heat packs, and back out there tomorrow.”
Torii Hunter followed with one of the longest home runs of the season, reaching the third deck in left field with a 426-foot blast that restored the Twins’ lead to five. It was Hunter’s 206th career home run as a Twin, one fewer than his mentor, Kirby Puckett, and his 14th of the season, the most he’s had before the break since 2010.
Hunter flexed a bicep in the dugout. Molitor was more impressed with the timing.
“When you get up seven and they cut into it, swinging the bats the way they were, insurance at some point obviously helps,” Molitor said. “And it’s always nice after someone gets smoked like that, after Dozier gets hit — to follow up with the home run is always satisfying.”
If a little hard to believe. “That’s granddad pop right there,” Dozier joked of his 40-next-week teammate.