Wetmore: 5 thoughts on Mauer's stroke, Dozier's skills and RBI drought
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This column presents 5 thoughts from Saturday's game.
As always, feel free to ask any questions or make any observations in the comments. If you have a unique baseball observation during a game, feel free to share it with me on Twitter (@DerekWetmore).
1. Joe Mauer singled in the first inning with a little help from the Orioles infield shift. Baltimore employs the shift -- non-traditional positioning of fielders - more than most teams. During Mauer's at-bat, shortstop J.J. Hardy moved to the right side of second base so the Orioles had three infielders on that side of secondg. On the surface, that could make sense if the plan is to pitch Mauer inside. He does ground out a lot to the right side of the infield.
But starter Wei-Yin Chen left a fastball off the plate that Mauer was able to hit to the opposite field. He hit it on the ground sharply through the spacious left side of the infield into left for a single. He scored on the next pitch when Trevor Plouffe doubled to the right-center gap.
2. First base coach Scott Ullger hit balls to Chris Herrmann and Danny Santana in centerfield before Saturday's game. That seems like the backup plan in center if anything happens to Sam Fuld. I don't know how well either of them could play in a game out there if it was necessary. Santana primarily was a shortstop in the minor leagues.
3. Brian Dozier blasted another solo home run Saturday, this time he got to the lefty Chen and smacked a full-count fastball off the facing of the second deck. Dozier leads the Twins with 8 home runs, although he has yet to hit one with a man on base.
4. Why has Dozier hit so many solo home runs? Well, that's nitpicking a little bit, because it's rare to find a second baseman with Dozier's combination of fielding prowess, on-base ability and power.
Ron Gardenhire speculated recently that it might be the case that pitchers are being more aggressive facing Dozier with the bases empty. Dozier seemed to agree.
"Yeah, I think so. And you see them early on in the game when [pitchers] are still trying to find the strike zone, establish the inside part of the plate, where I like it," Dozier said.
"It's one of those things: Keep hitting 'em, hopefully there's more people on base."
He's right, but it's not as if the Twins' leadoff hitter hasn't had runners get on in front of him this season. Entering Saturday, Dozier had stepped to the plate with a cumulative total of 72 runners on base. He had driven in just 11 of those, for an RBI percentage of 5.56, the lowest rate among Twins hitters who've come to the plate with at least 50 runners on base.
5. Mauer hit the ball hard to the opposite field several times Saturday and he said that was a conscious approach against the lefty Chen. Mauer also scored from first in the first inning on Trevor Plouffe's double, which didn't reach the wall in right-center. Mauer is faster than he sometimes gets credit for and he's a top-shelf baserunner.