MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — After his torrid second half last season left him with 42 homers, Brian Dozier would be wise not to worry about his future totals.
Minnesota’s sturdy second baseman still has plenty of power in that right-handed swing.
Dozier’s tiebreaking two-run shot with two outs in the eighth inning followed a pitching change by Tampa Bay and spurred the Twins to a 5-3 victory Saturday afternoon over the Rays.
“I think everything’s working pretty well right now,” Dozier said, smiling as he light-heartedly chided a reporter for raising the subject of home runs. “I couldn’t care less if I hit another one.”
The AL Central-leading Twins were 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position until Dozier stepped in against Tommy Hunter with a man on third. He turned a 2-1 slider into a 426-foot drive for his seventh of the season . It bounced off the ribbon videoboard between the upper and lower deck in right-center for a rare opposite-field shot.
“That ball was down-middle to down-middle-away, but Brian’s strong enough that he can hit the ball out of the ballpark,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said.
After becoming one of only four second basemen in major league history to hit 40-plus home runs, Dozier set a rather unreasonable standard.
“I think there’s a good chance we’d all be happy if he hits 20-plus,” manager Paul Molitor said, “and that’s just kind of the reality of it.”
Cash swapped right-handed relievers, removing Danny Farquhar (2-2) so Hunter could face Dozier. The decision backfired, ending a streak of 16 consecutive scoreless appearances for Farquhar, who has actually been harder to hit for left-handers than righties.
“It was what I wanted to throw. It was close to where I wanted it,” Hunter said. “He beat me.”
Dozier then made a diving stop on Rickie Weeks’ sharp grounder in the ninth inning to support Brandon Kintzler’s 13th save in 14 tries, despite a two-out home run by Colby Rasmus.
Eddie Rosario also went deep for the Twins, who are 12-14 at Target Field for the most home losses in the AL. Their 14-5 road record is the best in the majors.
They out-homered the Rays, who lead the league in long balls this year. The Rays have hit 15 home runs in their last six games at Target Field.
Having embarked Friday on a stretch of 45 games in 45 days, the Twins needed rookie Adalberto Mejia to stick around and save some relievers.
Mejia wasn’t as effective as last weekend during the doubleheader against Kansas City when he earned his first career victory, but he struck out six and finished five innings with the game tied.
“I like his stuff a lot,” Molitor said. “I still think that we’re going to have to grow through some of the experience, but you would think that every time out there is a little bit educational for him.”
Tyler Duffey pitched two scoreless innings and Taylor Rogers (2-1) followed with a perfect eighth inning for the win.
Rays starter Jake Odorizzi had his share of trouble, too.
He threw a season-high 118 pitches while failing to finish six innings for only the second time not for injury this year. He lost the lead twice, but he leads the majors with 21 no-decisions since the start of last season with 17 of them after yielding two earned runs or fewer. Odorizzi’s trusty cutter was a big part of the problem.
“It’s kind of a frustrating day,” he said, “when I can’t get that pitch over.”
With the lineup front-loaded with right-handers against the lefty Mejia, leading hitter Corey Dickerson had the day off for the Rays. Weeks, who reached each of his three times at-bat, took his spot as the designated hitter.
Twins third baseman Miguel Sano sat for the first time this season, excluding the May 9 game for a Major League Baseball suspension. Sano pinch-hit in the seventh inning and struck out for the eighth straight at-bat.
Rays: RHP Alex Cobb (4-4, 3.82 ERA) will pitch the series finale, with seven-plus innings completed in each of his last two turns. Cobb hadn’t accomplished that since Sept. 5 and 11, 2014, having missed 2015 and much of 2016 recovering from elbow-ligament replacement surgery.
Twins: RHP Kyle Gibson (1-4, 8.62 ERA) will make his second start Sunday afternoon since being recalled from Triple-A. He recorded his first win of the season earlier this week, despite allowing six runs in five innings at Baltimore.
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