A red-hot August has pushed Joe Mauer's batting average to .296, putting him within striking distance of .300 -- a mark he hasn't reached at season's end since 2013.
Mauer, 34, was still a catcher the last time it happened. He started the 2013 All-Star Game at age 30 and was batting .324 (with a .880 OPS) when a mid-August concussion ended his season, along with his catching career.
He moved to first base the following spring and batted .277, .265 and .261 the next three seasons, with a .733 OPS over that span that was below average for his position.
This season appeared to be more of the same. He was batting .268 with a .733 OPS on Aug. 9. But then he caught fire, along with the rest of the team's younger lineup.
Over his past 17 games, Mauer is batting .435 with 30 hits in 69 at-bats. Interesting side note: He's walked just three times in that span, well below his usual walk rate. His OPS is up to .783, which ranks 18th among MLB first basemen.
As Phil Miller wrote today, the Twins' outfield maturation of Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario and Max Kepler has been a big story. Mauer's recent surge has been significant, too.
With the Twins clinging to the second wild-card spot, they open a three-game series against the White Sox on Tuesday night at Target Field. Chicago will send veteran James Shields to the mound. Mauer knows the righthander well. For his career against Shields, Mauer is batting .296 (16-for-54).
Mauer just went 8-for-15 in Toronto. With another series like that, he'd be back above .300.