NEW YORK — Paul Molitor strongly believes that giving Joe Mauer regularly scheduled days off is at least partly responsible for Mauer’s hitting resurgence this season, for him batting .388 over the past month and having a hit in 24 of his last 26 starts. Mauer will finish the season with roughly 130 games started, a similar workload to when he was playing the more physically demanding position as catcher.
But the Twins are trying to capture a playoff spot, and Molitor has had to forego some of his plans to keep the 34-year-old first baseman rested. Mauer has started every game but one since Aug. 25, and today, a day game in the middle of the season’s longest road trip, was supposed to be a day for Mauer to sit out.
Plans have changed, though.
“Joe’s been in there, and he’s going to stay in there,” Molitor said of his decision to keep Mauer in the lineup as the designated hitter, a choice made more urgent by the presence of Yankees ace righthander Luis Severino on the mound. “I look for spots to give him a DH game. We were here 12 hours ago [playing a rain-delayed game that ended shortly before midnight], and I’m trying to find ways to keep him strong down the stretch.”
It’s a calculated risk, given that Mauer’s defense — his ground-ball error Tuesday night a costly exception — is so important for the Twins. But Kennys Vargas will man the position today, with the added benefit of adding a little extra left-handed power in a ballpark with an inviting short porch in right field.
“Kennys has had some good days and some not-so-good days, but we know he’s a threat, and we hope maybe he can run into one today,” Molitor said. “It gives us a little different look.”
The Twins would like to salvage a win in the finale, given that they remain on course to play here in a wild-card game in two weeks. Bartolo Colon, who has a 6.64 ERA in his last four starts, is on the mound for Minnesota.
Here are the lineups for today’s matinee from Yankee Stadium: