SAN DIEGO - Did Brian Dozier know, when he stepped to the plate in the top of the fourth Saturday night, that he was sitting on 999 career hits?
“No,” he insisted. “I knew it was creeping up, just because of people like you guys tweeting about that kind of stuff.”
Wait, does Dozier follow Nationals reporters on Twitter?
“No,” he replied. “I actually deleted Twitter because of you guys.”
Fair enough. Dozier could be excused for trying to block out the criticism that was being levied at him from all directions during the season’s first six weeks, when his batting average sat well below .200 and fans were getting feisty about his continued place in the Nationals lineup.
That is fast becoming a thing of the past, though, because Dozier has been red hot for three weeks now. Over his last 20 games, he’s batting .339 with five homers, six doubles and 16 RBIs.
He’s still got a little more ground to make up, but Dozier’s offensive numbers are now pretty close to on track for his career norms. He’s batting .235, 10 points under his career average. His OPS is .752, 14 points under his career mark. And he’s on pace to hit 25 homers, only three below his 162-game average throughout his big league tenure.
All of this leaves both Dozier and Nationals manager Davey Martinez grateful they didn’t lose confidence in the 32-year-old’s abilities, even after his slow start to the season.
“If I didn’t have that confidence, he wouldn’t have played as much as he has,” Martinez said. “I always say this about numbers: At the end of the year, you are who you are. We know he’s going to hit. I tell them: ‘Your numbers are going to be pretty much the same as what they typically are, barring any injuries. So just play. Go out there and have fun and play.’”
Dozier has been able to do that, thanks to some tweaks to help fix what he believes was a glitch in his swing brought about last year while he tried to play through a knee injury with the Twins and Dodgers.
“I don’t want to get too far in depth to it, but just the big thing is getting rid of bad habits I created last year,” he said. “I finally feel comfortable and back to my old self.”
And he was rewarded for it with a nice career milestone Saturday night. Dozier’s two-run homer into the second deck in the top of the fourth not only gave the Nationals a 3-0 lead over the Padres. It represented the 1,000th hit of his major league career.
Stadium officials tracked down the 15-year-old San Diego native who caught the homer and arranged for him to meet Dozier after the game, exchanging that ball for an autographed one and a one-on-one conversation with the big leaguer.
“I think it’s pretty cool,” Dozier said. “I don’t weigh, or put too much emphasis, on records and all that kind of stuff, or career accolades. I think it’s cool. I’ve played a while, and I’ve gotten some hits over the course of my career. But more importantly, a big win coming off of last night when we let one slip away. To bounce back and do what we did tonight is pretty good.”
And he didn’t even need to check Twitter to know that.