Dozier shines as Twins edge White Sox
MINNEAPOLIS -- Already in the middle of a career season, Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier shined again Friday against the Chicago White Sox.
Dozier's RBI single with two on and two out in the bottom of the ninth broke a tie and gave the Twins a 5-4 win at Target Field.
While getting game-winning hits in clutch spots late in the game make a guy feel pretty good, Dozier said he was even more excited about the double play he started in the top half of the inning to get the Twins out of a bases loaded, one-out jam -- keeping the game knotted at four.
With two runs already in and the sacks packed, Dozier fielded a ground ball to his left. With only a split second to decide between a throw home to get the lead runner or a throw to second, Dozier decided on the latter, throwing to shortstop Danny Santana, who quickly fired a rocket to first baseman Joe Mauer, beating White Sox third baseman Conor Gillaspie by half a step, getting Twins closer Glen Perkins out of a big jam.
"The walk-off hits, it is what it is, but that's probably one of the best feelings I've had in a while," Dozier said. "That's a play we have, slow hit ball I gotta go home, or the hard hit, I gotta turn it.
"That was the high chopper in between, the only ball I didn't want. Hats off to Danny. If he doesn't have the AK-47 attached to his body, then we probably don't turn it. But he's got a cannon."
The play in the field set up his heroics at the plate. With one out, White Sox righty Daniel Webb walked two batters in row. After a pitching change brought in lefty Scott Downs, who got a line out, Chicago manager Robin Ventura called on his closer, Ronald Belisario, to get Dozier and send the game to extras.
But with the count at 1-1, Dozier fought off a pitch that ran inside and dropped a soft single just over the glove of Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez. Dayan Viciedo, who had moved to left field at the start of the inning, threw home, but was a half-second too late to get a sliding Eduardo Escobar.
"I don't like facing (Belisario), to be honest," Dozier said. "He's got very, very good sink, probably some of the best sink in the league. I thought I put a better swing than what it was. He just ran it in, he kind of jammed me a little bit. But that's fine with me, I'll take 100 of them."
"You put a couple of guys on and it makes it extra tough to hold one," Ventura said. "You want to be aggressive in the zone. You have to be able to throw it over and make them put it in play. When you put them on like that, you're just making it easier for them."
Much of the scoring was done early in the game. Chicago got a pair of solo home runs from second baseman Gordon Beckham and first baseman Jose Abreu in the first inning to take a quick 2-0 lead against Twins right-hander Ricky Nolasco.
Minnesota got the runs back in the second, stringing together a walk, a double and a hit batter to load the bases for Escobar, who drilled a double into the right-field corner, scoring two. The two-base hit was his 22nd of the season, tying Trevor Plouffe for the team lead. The next batter, center fielder Sam Fuld, gave Minnesota a 3-2 lead with a sacrifice fly to deep right.
The Twins took a two-run lead in the next inning after Mauer singled and left fielder Josh Willingham walked. Designated hitter Kendrys Morales' swinging bunt moved both into scoring position and Mauer scored on an infield single by catcher Kurt Suzuki.
Nolasco settled in after that and got through 5 1/3 innings, allowing only the two runs on six hits and two walks. He was in line for the win until Perkins blew his third save of the season in the ninth.
The rally began when Chicago took advantage of a misplayed fly ball by Willingham. With one down, Viciedo hit a deep shot to Willingham that bounced off his glove on the warning track. Viciedo ended up at third on a play ruled a triple, and he scored one batter later on a single to center by pinch hitter Paul Konerko.
Chicago catcher Tyler Flowers followed with a single before center fielder Adam Eaton drove a double down the left-field line to tie the game.
"It was great to see us battle back," Eaton said. "I'd like to do that in the fifth or sixth. We can't be waiting that long. We need to put pressure on people earlier."
Right-hander Hector Noesi was the beneficiary of the rally and was let off the hook after pitching seven innings and allowing four earned runs. He retired 12 of the final 14 batters he faced, however. Daniel Webb, who pitched 1 1/3 innings in relief, was charged with his first loss after walking Escobar to start the ninth inning rally.
NOTES: The two home runs surrendered by RHP Ricky Nolasco in the first inning were the 14th and 15th he allowed the season, fourth-most in Major League Baseball. ... Twins 3B Eduardo Escobar's 22 doubles are tied with teammate Trevor Plouffe for fourth-most in the American League. ... White Sox 1B Jose Abreu homered in the first inning, his 21st homer. Abreu has now homered off 19 different pitchers in his rookie season. ... Plouffe, on the 15-day disabled list with inflammation in his rib cage, swung the bat prior to the game and reported continued soreness. ... Twins INF Eduardo Nunez (right hamstring) ran the bases before the game and reported no issues. Both Plouffe and Nunez are eligible to come off the DL June 30.