WASHINGTON – Only a single run was scored in the first seven innings of the second game of the doubleheader between the Washington Nationals and the Philadelphia Phillies. To those that haven’t been following closely in a while, it might seem surprising that it came off the bat of Brian Dozier. A player that was pivotal in a sweep of the two-game doubleheader over Philadelphia.
The run came off of a solo shot as he drove a 93-mph sinker into the short left deck at Nationals Park. Behind another dominant performance from Max Scherzer on the mound, it was all the team needed to put the team’s ace into a position to earn the win.
An insurance run was added by Victor Robles in the eighth for the 2-0 final. But it was Dozier’s home run that allowed blackeyed Scherzer to pitch with a rare lead up until he was pulled in favor of the bullpen. Run relief that Scherzer has been waiting for quite often this year.
“[It was important] to just have the lead. You’re still in a tight ball game. [Philadelphia] has shown they can leave the park at any time,” Scherzer said postgame. “It was huge for Dozier to continue to stay hot, have quality at-bats and to have a nice solo shot.”
The go-ahead home run is not the only offensive production that Dozier, 32, brought across the plate on Wednesday. In the first game of the doubleheader, he set the first of two back-to-back home runs also out to left field for the Nats. That time it was Dozier padding the insurance runs, turning a 3-1 game into a 5-1 game and allowed manager Davey Martinez to open up his bullpen.
“He’s standing on the ball and I like it a lot. He’s really not trying to do a whole lot. He’s trying just stay up the middle of the field and stand on the ball,” Martinez said after the first game.
Entering the day with a .228 batting average, the Nats starting second baseman rose his average up seven points to .235. But throughout the month of June, Dozier’s lines have steadily been improving after a putrid start to his first season in Washington.
His average was .209 at the end of May with a .299 on-base percentage and a .362 slugging mark. In June alone he’s up at .326/.392/.696, a far jump and exactly what the Nationals expected from him when they signed him as a free agent this past offseason.
Dozier's numbers were so bad early on that benching him was not a far-fetched proposal. He could be replaced for the hot-hitting, and team-leading, Howie Kendrick, and do it for more than just a couple days of rest. Trusting Dozier has definitely paid off this month and Martinez is encouraged that this is the turnaround that gets him on track.
“You have to [keep playing him], knowing his history. Those kind of guys like that you have to keep running them out there. There are days where you try and give them a day off here and there, but you know he’s going to come out of it,” Martinez said in-between the two games. “I kept telling myself ‘As long as he’s healthy, he’s going to do that.’ Now you see the results, he’s playing real well, playing good second base and knocking in some runs for us.”
Days like the one Dozier had on Wednesday are going to be where the young Nationals hang on his experience. Playing against NL East opponents are especially when the Nats will need strong performances from an eight-year veteran.
But with that all being said, at some point everyone expected the former All-Star to get it going. In the past, he has been known to have slow starts to the season, but he can always hang his hat on five straight 20-plus home run seasons.
He’s halfway there now on what many once considered to be a rough season for him.
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