PITTSBURGH (AP) — Brian Dozier’s bat tends to warm up in step with the weather. Not this year.
The Minnesota second baseman hit his fourth home run in four days and his hustle on the bases sparked a rally as the Twins handed the Pittsburgh Pirates their first loss of the season with a 7-3 victory at frigid PNC Park on Wednesday night.
Dozier, a career .225 hitter in April, smacked a drive that bounced off the top of the left-field wall and over in the third inning. Then he sprinted from first to third when an infield popup dropped between three Pirates in the sixth to ignite a four-run outburst that allowed Minnesota to take command.
“I don’t know if it’s a different Brian Dozier,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “For whatever reason some of his starts haven’t matched up with the second halves he’s put together, but his power has been there for us through the first five games.”
Dozier thought his home run would land well into the left-field bleachers and admitted he was surprised when instead it ended up scraping the top of the wall just out of the reach of Pittsburgh left fielder Corey Dickerson.
“I think it’s a sign of how strong the wind was tonight, or that maybe I need to get in the weight room more,” Dozier joked.
Miguel Sano added three hits and two RBIs for Minnesota. He chopped a single to right off Ivan Nova (0-1) to tie the game in the sixth and then chugged all the way around from first when Logan Morrison’s first hit of the season buried itself in the right-field corner.
Eduardo Escobar also drove in two runs for the Twins. Taylor Rogers (1-0) got two outs in the fifth to pick up the win as Minnesota wrapped up a season-opening road trip at 3-2.
Josh Bell hit a 432-foot home run through the snow flurries in the first inning for Pittsburgh. Dickerson added two hits for the Pirates, but Pittsburgh’s attempt to start 5-0 for the first time since 1983 ended during a 20-minute span that encompassed the bottom of the fifth and the top of the sixth.
Gregory Polanco took a wide turn around third trying to score on Starling Marte’s single to left and was thrown out at home by Eddie Rosario to end the fifth. Nova walked Dozier to start the top of the sixth and then the weather got involved when a high pop by Rosario between the pitcher’s mound and the first-base line briefly vanished in the snow.
The ball fell between Nova, Bell and catcher Francisco Cervelli. Though Bell recovered to get Rosario at first, Nova never recorded another out, giving up a run-scoring single to Sano and then Morrison’s double that snapped an 0-for-11 start to the season. Dovydas Neverauskas came on and allowed two run-scoring doubles as the Twins pushed their advantage to 6-3.
“Trying to help guys get some experience in some challenging situations,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “That’s the way we went with it, the way I went with it, and it didn’t work out well for us.”
Molitor made it a point to pull Rosario aside after he failed to run out the popup. Though things worked out for Minnesota, Rosario understood he should have darted for first instead of watching the ball assuming it would be caught.
“You just can’t make assumptions like that,” Molitor said. “I’m sure he’s frustrated because he’s trying to get the runner over from second with nobody out, but his frustration got the better of his judgment.”
The temperature at first pitch was 37 degrees, with wind chills in the 20s and snow flurries off and on throughout the night. Wintry weather has been commonplace for Pittsburgh during the opening week of the season. All five Pirates games have been 40 degrees or cooler at game time.
“It was OK until the ninth inning,” Dozier said. “I always want the ball to be hit to me but that was the one time where I was hoping it wouldn’t be hit my way.”
Pirates: SS Jordy Mercer took some grounders and swung the bat but was held out of the starting lineup to give the swelling on his right pinkie time to subside. Mercer injured the finger while diving back to first base on a pickoff attempt Monday.
Twins: Open their ninth season at Target Field on Thursday when Seattle visits. Kyle Gibson will start for Minnesota. Gibson threw six shutout innings in his 2018 debut last week against Baltimore.
Pirates: Steven Brault gets the spot start in place of injured Joe Musgrove when Pittsburgh opens a four-game set against Cincinnati on Thursday. Brault went 1-0 with a 4.67 ERA in 11 appearances last season, including four starts.