Not long after Brian Dozier belted his 39th home run of the season, a no-doubter that rocketed into the second deck to give him a homer in his fifth straight game and continue his historic power surge, the Minnesota Twins second baseman was nowhere to be found.
The solo shot to lead off the bottom of the first inning against the Kansas City Royals wasn’t enough, just as so many of his others haven’t been in another miserable year of losing for the Twins. So when reporters streamed into the clubhouse to get Dozier’s thoughts on joining Harmon Killebrew in the Twins record book for most consecutive games with a long ball and tying Alfonso Soriano for the most homers by a second baseman in American League history, Dozier was already long gone.
He wasn’t interested in talking about his accomplishments after a 10-3 loss dropped the Twins 29 games behind the Cleveland Indians in the AL Central. He didn’t want indulge the thought that his homer spree is helping to ease the pain of a sixth straight season missing the postseason.
Dozier has been one of the very few bright spots for a massively disappointing team that is steamrolling toward 100 losses. And the polite, Tupelo, Mississippi native has been using that ”aw-shucks” drawl of his not to deliver some kind of false modesty about the roll he’s on. It almost seems like he feels compelled to apologize for it.
”You do recognize the home runs and all that kind of stuff, it’s great for the game and the fans and all that stuff,” Dozier said on Tuesday before the Twins gave up seven in the ninth to lose to the Royals. ”You never want to get too high or too low about it, especially at the end of the day when you look up and you’re still 25 games out of first place.
”That’s the frustrating part. You want to enjoy the success, but it doesn’t taste as good unless you’re on the winning side of things.”
The Twins are a major league-worst 52-88 this season and have lost 17 of their last 20 games. There has not been a day this season where they have not been in last place in the division. Dozier was one of the reasons the team was buried from the beginning. The former All-Star struggled mightily in the first two months of the season and was still hitting .202 with just five homers in the first week in June, with a pull-heavy approach at the plate making him easy for opposing pitchers to attack.
After getting away and clearing his head during the All-Star break, Dozier has been a man on fire. He has 22 home runs in his last 37 games, two fewer than the entire Marlins team over that span. He trails Baltimore’s Mark Trumbo by two homers for most in the big leagues and only Atlanta’s Davey Johnson (42) in 1973, Rogers Hornsby (42) in 1922 and Cubs great Ryne Sandberg (40) in 1990 have hit more in a season as second basemen.
”We’ve tried to figure out exactly how all this has taken place,” Twins manager and Hall of Famer Paul Molitor said. ”I haven’t really witnessed as a player, a coach, a manager, a power surge to this level. It’s just been such a regular occurrence.”
The binge has been so staggering that the team’s beleaguered fans have tossed aside convention to honor him. When Dozier hit his third homer of the game on Monday against the Royals, fans stood and cheered and begged for a curtain call despite a six-run deficit.
A bashful Dozier finally relented.
”I know as a Saints fan that we’ve had some rough, rough years. But when a Drew Brees throws for 400 yards, that’s what you come to watch,” he said. ”You have a lot of loyal fans that pay a lot of money. They want you to do a curtain call. And even though you feel awkward and you don’t really know about doing it because we’re getting the crap beaten out of us, it’s pretty cool.”
With 22 games left, it seems like only a matter of time before Dozier climbs into history. Perhaps more importantly, he is providing a happy diversion during the long slog to the finish line.
”I’m always right there at the top of the stairs, watching to see the ball fly off his bat,” teammate Trevor Plouffe said. ”It’s really cool.”