Twins Saturday: Brian Dozier remains on fire
MINNEAPOLIS -- Brian Dozier celebrated Friday's 13-inning walk-off win with a postgame Gatorade shower on the field. Saturday's ending was a bit more subdued, but Dozier was still very much a key to the Twins' 6-4 win over the Astros.
One night after Dozier had three hits -- including the game-winner -- he helped propel Minnesota with two more big hits. The first came in the Twins' first at-bat of the game as Dozier led off with a triple, his third of the season. He lined a ball to the gap in right-center field and kept running before reaching third.
Dozier came home to score one batter later on a Joe Mauer groundout to second, tying the game at 1-1.
"As I was turning to second, I saw him bobble it," Dozier said. "I said, 'Why not? Take a shot.'"
Later in the game, Dozier came to the plate in the seventh inning with a runner on third and one out. At the time, the Twins trailed 4-3 after the Astros tagged Minnesota starter Kyle Gibson for three runs in the third inning. For the second straight night, Dozier delivered in a big spot. The Twins second baseman doubled to right field to score Clete Thomas from third and even the game at 4. Dozier eventually crossed the plate as the go-ahead run on a Ryan Doumit base hit.
After going 2-for-5 in Saturday's win, Dozier raised his batting average to .239 and also extended his hitting streak to a career long 10 games. He credits some tweaks to his batting stance in late May for his improvements offensively.
"Ever since I made some adjustments, it kind of transformed my season," Dozier said. "I think that's been the turning point. Ever since then I've felt really good."
Dozier has primarily batted leadoff since early July, partially because the Twins don't currently have a prototypical leadoff hitter. Over the last month or so, manager Ron Gardenhire has seen a more aggressive approach from Dozier at the plate. On Friday and Saturday, it was on full display.
"A lot of confidence in what he's doing right now," Gardenhire said. "You saw him lead the game off with a triple. A lot of guys might have stopped at second, but he's playing aggressive. … He's swinging good. He's coming up with big hits for us in big situations. You can see he's not afraid to take pitches and get behind in the count because he's feeling confident swinging. We need that."
Swarzak shines in relief: The last thing the Twins needed Saturday after Friday's 13-inning marathon was to dip into the bullpen early.
Thankfully for Minnesota, Anthony Swarzak was ready to answer the call.
When starter Kyle Gibson's night ended after just three innings, Gardenhire turned to the right-handed Swarzak to eat up innings and help bridge the gap to the latter part of the game. The starter-turned-reliever did just that, pitching three scoreless innings and striking out five Astros batters to keep the game in check.
"Swarzy was the star of the game for us," Gardenhire said.
With Saturday's three innings, Swarzak has now pitched 70 2/3 innings this year and could reach the 100-inning mark by season's end -- something not often done by relievers.
While Swarzak has thrived in the long relief role this year, he still admits he'd prefer to start games.
"I would love the opportunity to start," Swarzak said. "I will never let that go. Maybe I should for my own good, but as of right now I would love the opportunity to grab the ball every five days and give my team a chance to win. ...
"I'm confident in my stuff right now that I could be an effective starter at the major league level."
Swarzak was a starter in 2009 but was 3-7 with a 6.25 ERA in 12 starts. After spending the entire 2010 season in the minors, he pitched in 27 games with the Twins in 2011 -- although 16 of those came in relief. He was a spot starter last season, making five starts and 39 relief appearances. He's yet to start a game in 2013.
Gardenhire was asked after Saturday's game if the Twins have talked about possibly moving Swarzak back into the rotation.
"I just got through saying that back there," Gardenhire said. "He's so valuable at what he's doing right now that we're going to probably try to leave him there. But I just said the same thing you just said right there in that back room. The guy's really throwing the ball well for us. A lot of times when a guy's doing that you leave them right where they're at because he's eating up huge innings for us and he's just as valuable there because we use him two or three times a week."
Record crowd at Target Field: Despite their position in the standings, the Twins continue to draw fans to Target Field. The team announced a sellout of 38,078 for Saturday's game, the sixth sellout of the 2013 season.
Additionally, Minnesota announced a walk-up crowd of 4,584, the largest in Target Field's four-year history. It was the 152nd sellout of the downtown Minneapolis park since it opened in 2010.
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