Pelfrey on Dozier: “Maybe I should’ve been more careful”
The second-inning pitch that Brian Dozier lined into left field for a two-run single and a 4-0 Twins lead Thursday was below the knees but over the plate. It was pretty much the pitch that Mike Pelfrey and James McCann wanted in that situation if they were going to pitch to the Twins All-Star leadoff man.
“I thought it was a good pitch, if I’m going to go after him,” Pelfrey said.
The “if” part came up more after the game than the pitch.
Dozier stepped to the plate with a 2-0 Twins lead, runners at second and third with two outs, Pelfrey trying to get out of a four-hit and left-hander Blaine Hardy warming up in the Tigers bullpen. On deck was switch-hitter Jorge Polanco, who fell a triple shy of the cycle in Tuesday’s Twins win.
Polanco entered the day batting 18-for-45 (.400) against lefties, including three hits off Matt Boyd on Tuesday. Manager Brad Ausmus, asked about the situation, did not want him to face another lefty with an RBI situation.
“I was going to bring in the lefty at that point,” Ausmus said, “and Polanco’s a better right-handed hitter.”
The strategy suggested he didn’t want Pelfrey to face Polanco with the bases loaded, either. He was willing to take his chances with Dozier to avoid that, at least in the early stages of the game.
“Bases loaded, you also leave yourself nowhere to maneuver,” Ausmus said. “A walk is a run. Anything’s a run. Early in the game, you expect to score some runs. We scored one run. …
“Generally, you don’t want the main guy to beat you. That early in the game, I’m not overly concerned about it.”
That said, McCann indicated Polanco’s presence wasn’t a primary concern.
“Honestly, I know Polanco’s had some hits against us, but Dozier’s so hot right now,” McCann said. “He wasn’t the guy that we wanted to beat us. We wanted to make Polanco continue to swing the bat. You look at Dozier’s year, especially what he’s done since the All-Star break, that’s the guy you can’t let beat you.”
Pelfrey put Dozier in an 0-2 hole on sinkers in the first inning before getting him to ground out. Once Dozier shrugged at two sliders off the plate, the situation was reversed, and Pelfrey had a decision to make with a 2-0 count.
“Yeah, probably not the smartest thing that I fell behind on two sliders,” Pelfrey said. “I threw a split that he swung through, came back with a heater, he swung through that, and we got back to 2-2.”
The 2-0 splitter was around the same location was the 2-2 splitter. The 2-1 fastball was over the plate, a challenge pitch. The Twins had an approach of making Pelfrey throw the fastball, but Dozier swung through it.
Pelfrey had a pitch to play with at 2-2. He went back to the splitter down, but not down enough to get out of Dozier’s reach. Pelfrey, who has been prone to self-criticism, second-guessed himself.
“Maybe I should’ve been more careful and walked him,” he said. “I didn’t think that split was necessarily a bad pitch, but he’s maybe the hottest hitter on the planet, and he obviously made me pay for it. That’s obviously — 4-0 compared to 2-0 is obviously a big deficit. Maybe I should’ve been a little smarter. …
“Maybe I should’ve been smarter. Again, he’s the hottest hitter on the planet. Maybe I should’ve walked him with first base open and tried to go after Polanco. But you get in the game, you get caught up in going after guys. Maybe it wasn’t the smartest thing in hindsight.”
McCann wasn’t so tough on the intent, focusing more on the pitch.
“He hit it off the end of the bat and blooped it in,” he said. “Yeah, maybe we try to get him to fish and it’s a different ballgame, different at-bat. But it wasn’t like we grooved him a heater and said, ‘Here you go, hit it.’ We were trying to work the count to make him hit our pitch.”
The difference, Ausmus, was the result.
“If he grounds out to third, you don’t even ask the question,” Ausmus said. “It’s all results-oriented. He got a hit. It was actually not well-hit, kind of a soft liner, simple as that.”