Rosario also goes deep in 1st as Twins chase Severino
By David Adler
NEW YORK -- Brian Dozier opened the American League Wild Card Game with a bang -- cracking a leadoff home run off Yankees ace Luis Severino -- keying a fast start for the Twins in Tuesday night's 8-4 loss at Yankee Stadium.
It was the first time the Major League Baseball postseason had ever opened with a home run by the first batter of the first game.
Eddie Rosario also knocked a two-run homer off Severino, who was chased after one-third of an inning, giving Minnesota an immediate three-run edge over the Yankees in the win-or-go-home game in the Bronx, although New York tied the game in the bottom of the first on a Didi Gregorius homer.
"You know, you can sit here and try to imagine if it was 0-0 after the first, what it would have felt like compared to scoring three and giving three back," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "It's the exhilaration of jumping out -- Brian's leadoff home run and Rosi … and then the deflation of giving it back so quickly. So there was a lot, you know, a lot was spent early."
Dozier took a 99.1-mph fastball deep to left field. Dozier's home run had an exit velocity of 105.4 mph, according to Statcast™, and just cleared the wall over a leaping Brett Gardner's glove. It was the hardest pitch a Twins player had hit for a home run all season.
"We saw a couple of things that made us sink in a little bit to him, lock in a little bit more to him," Dozier said of facing Severino. "But the kid's got electric stuff. Sometimes he could tell you what's coming, with the wipeout slider and throwing 100 mph. He's good. But I'm glad we got to him. That was the main focus for this young group coming in, making sure we were ready. The energy in that first inning was off the charts."
Dozier is the first player to lead off a Wild Card Game with a home run. The last player to lead off a postseason game with a homer had been Dexter Fowler for the Cubs -- in Game 7 of last year's World Series.
Dozier's was also the first postseason leadoff home run in Twins franchise history, and the 30th "true" leadoff homer -- that is, the first batter of the game in the top of the first inning -- in Major League playoff history.
While Dozier hit the first-ever home run to lead off the top of the first inning of the first postseason game of the year, two players had previously done it for their team in the bottom of the first: Brady Anderson for the Orioles in the first game of the 1996 playoffs (Oct. 1 vs. the Indians) and Bob Dernier for the Cubs in '84 (Oct. 2 vs. the Padres).
Rosario put his homer into the right-field porch at Yankee Stadium, a 104.1-mph shot off a 91.9 mph slider from Severino. That marked the first time the Twins had ever homered twice in the first inning of a playoff game.
It was the first career postseason at-bat for both Dozier and Rosario. The only other Twins players to homer in their first-ever at-bats in the playoffs, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, were Gary Gaetti in 1987 and Don Mincher in '65.
"We had a couple of different things, ... obviously we knew what a unique game that it was going to be, and you saw that tonight," Dozier said. "One of those things was we wanted to try to score early, to maintain a lead. Even Mollie said when he talked to us that he knew that we were ready, and we showed up.
"But good teams respond to that. You don't know how tough it is to get down that early, take that energy out of the crowd and everything, and all of a sudden they respond. It was back and forth all game, they kind of opened up at the end, but I'm so proud of these guys."
David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.