On the surface, it was just a home run. In a year where 4,588 of them have been hit already, that hardly seems like a real headline-grabber.
MLB hitters have been hitting home runs at a rate of 1.39 per game — by far the most in a season in history. It’s not even really close; the 2017 season ranks second at 1.27 long balls per nine, and no other season is over 1.20.
The homer also came late in a game that ended 18-7. That type of score is more commonplace in today’s game with balls flying out of the park at an unprecedented rate.
Also more commonplace in today’s game is position players pitching, and in this case, it was a position player serving up the hitter’s second home run of the game.
Alright, that’s enough of that cryptic business.
The home run was in Phoenix, and it came off the bat of Eduardo Escobar.
That pitch was thrown by perhaps his best friend in all of baseball — Washington Nationals second baseman Brian Dozier. If Dozier isn’t his closest friend in the game, it’s possible the guy catching is — Nationals backstop Kurt Suzuki.
So when Dozier — a right-handed thrower — attempted to sneak a 69 mph floater past Escobar — a switch hitter batting from the right side — the Diamondbacks’ jack-of-all-trades crushed it into oblivion, well into the left-field seats.
All three guys did a fairly good job of letting the moment play itself out, until Escobar did his customary home run celebration after rounding third.
That’s when Suzuki had to get involved, as he playfully told Escobar to get back into the dugout while Dozier simply smiled as he watched his former teammate round the bases.
The trio was like mismatched socks — a Hawaiian, a Mississippi boy and a guy from Venezuela — who drew glee during their Twins days from bouncing around each other like said socks in a dryer.
One Sunday in their Minnesota days, Escobar playfully razzed Suzuki about speaking his native tongue of “Alaskan,” and that’s when things got brutal. Bullpen coach Eddie Guardado got involved, and he and Suzuki were pummeling Escobar to the floor — not a far fall when you think about it — within seconds, raining playful blows to his head and body while he screamed bloody murder.
When they were finished, Escobar wailed as though he was legitimately hurt — long enough to draw suspicion, anyhow — before popping up and going about the rest of his day with a slight but exaggerated limp.
That’s one of just many stories that can be told about Escobar — who famously kept a toy horse in his locker — and his friends in the clubhouse.
He also famously called Dozier “Lo Conner” — his linguistic twist on Brian O’Conner, the Fast and Furious character played by the late Paul Walker, whom Escobar felt Dozier bore a strong resemblance to.
Quite a few Twins remain from the days of all three playing with the Twins, and even more from Dozier and Escobar being teammates, because it was just a year ago that they were sent their separate ways in trade deadline deals.
So when Escobar took Dozier deep late Saturday night, you’d better believe there were some reactions in the Twins clubhouse. In fact, most Twins players saw it just after it happened, since Minnesota’s game ran late due to the Joe Nathan Hall of Fame ceremony and a brief rain delay.
“I laughed, really hard,” said reliever Trevor May, who played with all three with the Twins. “Then (the former teammates) all went and everyone watched it and it was really funny.”
The notoriously impish Escobar managed to keep a straight face while rounding the bases, even as Dozier watched him touch all four with a big grin on his face.
“I think he was just keeping it professional,” said Twins reliever Taylor Rogers with a laugh. “I’m sure he had a lot to say, but he kept it buttoned up.”
Reliever Tyler Duffey said he thought it was the perfect combination for that kind of an occurrence — a ‘pitcher,’ catcher and hitter who were all terrific friends coming together for a moment even the cheesiest Disney movie wouldn’t dare to replicate.
“That was the perfect combination for that moment,” Duffey said prior to Sunday’s game. “We had just gotten done (with Saturday night’s game) I think when it happened. Every guy in here that played with them was laughing their ass off watching it. Everyone had a feeling.
“Esky always called Dozier ‘Rook’ and everything else. They were so close. To see that, and to see when he crossed home plate and Zuk tells him (playfully) to ‘Get the hell out of here.’ You can kind of see him gesturing at him. It’s pretty neat. Then they had dinner together afterward at Esky’s house. Not at Fogo. I think Esky posted something on Instagram of the three of them together. I was just thinking ‘This is unbelievable.’”
Kyle Gibson also cracked up at the thought of Suzuki ushering Escobar off the field. There’s a famous GIF of then-Twins manager Paul Molitor and Suzuki shouting expletives at Indians infielder Jose Ramirez to “get off the (redacted) field” when he Cadillac’d a home run at Progressive Field a few years ago.
This one was markedly tamer.
“I thought that was one of the funnier parts,” Gibson chuckled. “Esky has this arm motion he does when he hits a homer. When he did it, Zuk was behind the plate making fun of him for celebrating hitting a homer off a position player.”
A few people noted that Escobar hit right-handed against Dozier. Duffey’s theory is that was far from a coincidence.
“The best part was that he went righty-righty against him,” Duffey said. “He’s got a little more juice from that side. This made it that much better. He just knew he was going to hit a homer.”
Jose Berrios was surprised the two didn’t lock eyes as Escobar rounded the bases.
“With a relationship like that, I thought when he hit the ball you’d see right away a smile or something,” Berrios said. “They are good friends. It’s always fun to watch guys like that.”
Gibson also said he enjoyed watching Dozier pitch — something the second baseman had always wanted to do but never got the chance because a certain catcher hogged all the limelight.
“I haven’t talked to Doz yet, but that’s got to be a pretty special opportunity for him,” Gibson said. “For one, always wanted to pitch a little bit just so he could say he did it. (Chris) Gimenez ruined that for him. But you’ve got two guys who have a really deep friendship and they had a little fun.
“Obviously everyone wants to win the game, but in the meantime, I can’t imagine what would have happened if he’d gotten him out. Dozier would have never let Esky live that down. So I think it’s good that it worked out this way.”
Gibson also said it’s a little different when he gives up a homer to a friend or former teammate, however.
“It’s different for a pitcher to give up a homer to a friend, because obviously if you’re pitching, you’re still in the game,” Gibson said. “It’s still a game to be won or lost, so it’s not nearly as fun. But as a position player getting to do it, they’re in a situation to have a little fun and really enjoy it and they’ll be able to laugh about that for a while so it was pretty cool.”
Hitting coach James Rowson said that Dozier will never live this down, as Escobar now has bragging rights for life.
“It’s funny,” Rowson said. “I was talking to a couple of guys about it last night. I was talking to Rudy (Hernandez) about it. That’s like bragging rights for life right there for Esky, because it’s never going to go away. I think Doz knew it when he gave it up. That was pretty fun to watch. That was classic. You wouldn’t think that would happen, but now that it did, Dozier won’t ever be able to live that down.”
Rowson thought replay coordinator Nate Dammann was kidding at first when he told him he had to see this video.
“I couldn’t believe it at first,” Rowson said. “Nate actually told me about it. He said, ‘You’re not gonna believe this.’ Then I came up and saw the video, and I just laughed right away. I just knew it was going to be bragging rights forever for him.”
Ultimately, May said he wasn’t surprised it happened — even despite long odds.
“(They’re all) best buds,” he said. “I mean it’s weird. The chances of it happening are really low, but of course, it happened. At some point in their careers, that doesn’t surprise me one bit.”
Eddie Rosario called it a fun moment. Ehire Adrianza said he hadn’t seen it yet — but was excited to get a chance to.
“You just can’t make it up,” Duffey concluded. “Baseball has a way of working like that.”
“Three best friends,” Berrios said. “That’s why we love baseball.”