Watch: Brian Dozier showered with gum after game-winning HR
Dozier had two hits against Hunter previously, including one home run, so Minnesota’s power-hitting second baseman knew what to expect. Then Hunter surprised Dozier with a 97 mph fastball that sank in the zone.
Dozier said Hunter’s fastball at that velocity usually cuts across the zone.
When Hunter went back to the same pitch on his next delivery, Dozier wasn’t going to be surprised again.
Dozier hit a tiebreaking, two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning to send the Minnesota Twins to a 5-3 win over Tampa Bay on Saturday.
“That’s the first time I’ve seen a sinker and I swung over it,” Dozier said. “It was a really good pitch, but he showed it twice. He was probably trying to backdoor it again, so I just went with it.
“To be honest with you, you’re not thinking homer there. You’re thinking, especially that right side open, something to really drive and it helped me to get up in the wind a bit.”
Dozier’s seventh home run of the season was deep to the opposite field, hitting off the ribbon video board in front of the second deck in right field. Minnesota was 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position before Dozier’s blast.
“You can’t really say it was a good pitch because the guy hit it 485 feet,” Hunter said of Dozier’s homer, which was estimated at 426 feet. “It was what I wanted to throw, and it was close to where I wanted it. He beat me.”
Rays reliever Danny Farquhar (2-2) had walked Chris Gimenez leading off the inning. Byron Buxton added an RBI single in the inning as Minnesota won for the fourth time in five games.
Taylor Rogers (2-1) pitched a perfect eighth for the Twins and got the win. Brandon Kintzler gave up a two-out solo homer to Colby Rasmus but finished off his 13th save in 14 chances.
Rookie starter Adalberto Mejia was recalled from Triple-A Rochester to assume Minnesota’s open spot in the rotation. The left-hander built off his best start and first win in the majors in his last outing — a three-run, seven-inning performance in a doubleheader on May 21 against the Kansas City Royals.
Mejia surrendered two earned runs, six hits and two walks but threw 91 pitches in five innings while striking out six batters.
“I like his stuff a lot,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “I still think that we’re going to have to grow through some of the inexperience. But you would think that every time out there is a little bit educational for him.”
Tampa Bay starter Jake Odorizzi worked 5 2/3 innings. He threw a season-high 118 pitches while giving up seven hits and four walks. He allowed two runs and struck out four batters.
“Just a lot of foul balls today, way more than normal,” Odorizzi said. “We’ve been through it before. I was around the zone but not good enough to get a miss or a ball in play, so it was kind of that gray area where it’s good stuff, but it just drives your pitch count up.”
Derek Norris’ RBI single scored the opening run of the game when he plated Logan Morrison in the second inning. Minnesota answered back in its half of the inning with a sacrifice fly by Ehire Adrianza scoring Kennys Vargas.
Norris added a sacrifice fly in the fourth to score Kevin Kiermaier before Eddie Rosario tied the score again in the bottom of the fourth with a long solo homer to right field, his fourth home run of the season.
NOTES: Minnesota 3B Miguel Sano was out of the starting lineup the day after striking out four times. Sano entered as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning and struck out with pinch-runner Byron Buxton on third base and no outs. He has struck out in eight straight at-bats. Buxton was also out of the starting lineup after striking out twice on Friday. He pinch ran in the seventh and stayed in the game in center field. … Tampa Bay RHP Jake Odorizzi had his 21st no-decision since the start of last season. It’s the highest total in the majors and three more than any other pitcher. … Twins manager Paul Molitor said LHP Glen Perkins could face hitters during his final bullpen session in Minnesota on Tuesday. Perkins, who has been out since April 2016 with shoulder trouble, will go to Florida to continue his rehab work afterward. … RHP Alex Cobb (4-4, 3.82 ERA) will start for Tampa Bay in Sunday’s series finale. The Twins will have RHP Kyle Gibson (1-4, 8.62) on the mound.