Mauer's run production returns, spurs win over Orioles
MAY 03, 2014 6:23p ET
MINNEAPOLIS -- The numbers weren't great through the early part of the season whenever Joe Mauer stepped into the batter's box with runners in scoring position.
Before Saturday's game against Baltimore, Mauer had just three hits in 22 at-bats -- a .167 average -- in that situation. One of those hits, however, was a three-run home run against Kansas City's James Shields.
But Mauer is a three-time batting champion. Despite what may have been perceived as early struggles, it seemed like only a matter of time before those numbers got back on track.
Mauer was given a few opportunites Saturday to boost his stats with runners in scoring position, and the Twins' first baseman capitalized. He finished the game with a season-high four RBI, including a three-run home run to left field, to propel Minnesota to a 6-1 victory over visiting Baltimore.
After what could be considered a slow start by Mauer's standards -- he was batting just .276 through April -- he came through in a big way Saturday.
"As I've told you guys a thousand times, I worry about a lot of people. He's not normally one you worry about," manager Ron Gardenhire said of Mauer. "He's a good hitter."
It's not that Mauer hasn't had any success this year with runners in scoring position, as his .394 on-base percentage in that situation indicates. For whatever reason, though, the hits were hard to come by. But facing Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen in the fifth inning, Mauer singled through the infielders and into left field to score Brian Dozier from second base to put the Twins up 3-0.
Two innings later, Mauer delivered an even bigger hit with runners in scoring position. After Pedro Florimon led off the seventh inning with a base hit to left, Dozier singled to center to give Mauer a chance with runners on first and third with nobody out. Baltimore reliever Brad Brach left a 2-0 pitch up and Mauer connected for a three-run shot to left field.
"I was looking for something up out over the plate. I got ahead in the count. I think he tried to go down and away and left it up a little bit," Mauer said of the home run. "I was just trying to get something elevated to the outfield. I got it pretty good."
Mauer went hitless in his first 10 at-bats of the season but has since found his stroke at the plate. On top of his two run-producing hits Saturday, he also picked up a single in the first inning and later came around to score. Mauer's 3-for-4 day in the win raised his batting average to .298.
It was Mauer's fifth multi-hit game in his last eight games, and he's now batting .331 at home this year. If there was any worry about Mauer's bat through the early part of April, Saturday's effort served as a reminder that Mauer can indeed still produce big hits for the Twins.
"Joe's fine. Obviously, you saw what he did today," Dozier said. "I know he's starting to feel a lot more comfortable out there. . . . I don't really think that he's had a slow month, to be honest with you. He's hitting .300. He's doing what he's been doing for 10 years."
Since Mauer's average dropped to .256 in late April, Mauer has since batted .406 (13-for-32) in his last eight games.
"Historically, I probably do start out a little slow," Mauer said. "For whatever it's worth, I started out slow this year. But today I was feeling pretty good, and the last couple games. Hopefully I can hold onto that feeling."
When Mauer transitioned from catcher to first base this season, the hope was that his legs would be fresher and his numbers at the plate would improve. That hasn't quite been the case yet, even though Mauer said he definitely notices a difference in how he feels compared to this point in the season in previous years.
Mauer's three-hit day was a sign that he's indeed feeling healthy. So, too, was his ability to score from first base in the first inning on a double by Trevor Plouffe. Though he's always been a savvy base runner and has a history of reading the ball well off the bat, Mauer had no problem scoring from first on a double to the gap that didn't reach the wall.
"I've noticed that early on that I'm running a lot better," Mauer said. "I feel pretty good. It's always nice to score from first. Sometimes that gets overlooked."
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