KANSAS CITY — After a week of frustration, the Royals were in search of a definitive big hit late Saturday. Then stepped to the plate Hunter Dozier, who had the chance to put a five-game losing streak in Kansas City’s rearview mirror.
Dozier did just that, answering the call and ending a Saturday to Saturday bumpy ride with a two-run homer to the left-field stands in the sixth inning that broke the tie and lifted the Royals past the Tigers, 3-1, enabling the team to breath a sigh of relief.
Embracing an expanded designated hitter role, Dozier was able to sway the Royals’ fortunes by turning on an 0-2 pitch from Will Vest and giving the Royals a lead that the bullpen would protect. For Dozier, who made just 11 appearances as the designated hitter in 2021, the game-winning homer affirmed the approach that he has carried with him through Spring Training and beyond.
“We were in a tight game again today and had to get the big hit,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “Fortunately, Dozier was able to pull that off. He’s taking really good at-bats and not trying to do too much. That being said, the power is still going to be there when he takes the right swing.”
Down 0-2 in the count, Dozier wouldn’t give up on his crucial at-bat. His mindset with one out was just to battle and keep the inning going. But then he got a slider to which he could do damage.
“I hit it good, but you never know with the wind here,” Dozier said “When I first hit it, I thought it was gone. But then I saw it just hanging up there and I got a little nervous.”
Dozier is used to playing in the field, so the idle time as a designated hitter is still something he’s working through.
“It’s something I haven’t done a ton,” Dozier said. “I’m a guy who probably takes too many swings. So, I have to watch how many swings I take between innings. That’s probably the biggest challenge. Being the DH, sometimes I feel more tired than when I am out in the field. That’s because I’m swinging so much and I’m trying to limit that.”
During the five-game skid, the Royals missed many opportunities to strike. But once Dozier came through in the sixth, Kansas City had an extra spring in its step. Five pitchers combined to shut down the Tigers’ offense, and the Royals’ defense tied a club record with an eighth consecutive errorless game to start the season. They’re now two games back of the MLB record.
“We needed this,” Dozier said. “You never want those losing streaks to last too long. The pitching has been doing a good job of keeping us in the ballgames. So, it was good for us as an offense to come through and help them out. Today, it was like we were going to do whatever it took to win this game.”
The Royals got great production from Salvador Perez earlier in the week when he was cast in the DH role in St. Louis and hit two home runs. But for the most part, it figures to be Dozier spending the majority of time in that role for now. He has been in the DH spot for six of the team’s eight games.
“This guy is a good hitter,” Matheny said. “He brings everything to the table that you would want — the way he prepares, the way he works. He’s going to have a big season if he continues to do what he’s doing.”