CLEVELAND - Joe Mauer continued pushing his way back into the American League batting race Tuesday night as the Twins pulled out a 6-5, 12-inning victory over the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field.
The three-time batting champ went 3-for-4 with two walks, catching all 12 innings and raising his batting average to .325. Detroit's Miguel Cabrera led the AL at .330 entering the day and raised that mark to .333 with his two-homer, six-RBI performance against Oakland.
"We've still got, what, two weeks to go?" Mauer said. "I mean anything can happen. There's a lot of [at-bats] left, and I'm not going to lie: That'd be nice to get back up there and win it, but that's not what I'm really focused on."
Mauer wants the entire team to finish strong, and after going 1-5 in their previous six games, the Twins pulled back into a fourth-place tie with Cleveland in the AL Central Division at 61-87.
This one wasn't pretty. Cleveland used a team-record 10 pitchers and by the end, there were a scattered few people sitting in the seats. Those that stayed saw a wild finish.
With the score tied 4-4 in the 10th, Cleveland had a golden chance to win it, when an error by Alexi Casilla put runners at first and third with no outs. But the Twins wiggled out of the jam. Casey Fien got two shallow pop outs to the outfield from Carlos Santana and Russ Canzler, and lefthander Tyler Robertson got another one from Lonnie Chisenhall to end the inning.
"Our bullpen was super," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "They came in and did a really, really nice job."
With two outs in the 12th inning, Twins outfielder Darin Mastroianni singled and stole second before scoring on an infield single by Casilla.
Second baseman Jason Kipnis fielded the ball and made the throw to first base, but Matt LaPorta had wandered off the base. By the time LaPorta caught it, Mastroianni had sped around third, and he scored ahead of LaPorta's throw.
Pedro Florimon added an RBI single, and after allowing a two-out solo home run to Carlos Santana, Glen Perkins finished off his 12th save.
"A win's a win," Gardenhire said after the four-hour marathon. "I think we kept everyone here too long, but if you're going to stay this long, win the game, and we did that."
Mauer was batting .314 on Sept. 8, but he went 5-for-9 in his next two games against Cleveland. Then, after missing five games because of back spasms, he returned to go 2-for-3 with a home run on Sunday against Chicago.
"He's on just about everything," Gardenhire said. "Even the outs he makes are hard."
Besides Cabrera, Mauer also trails the Angels' Mike Trout (.327), who went 0-for-3 in a victory over the Rangers. The Yankees' Derek Jeter (.323), whose game was rained out against Toronto, is just behind Mauer.
"I've been in that race a few times before and understand it's 162 games," Mauer said. "My first [batting title in 2006] went down to my last game, my last four at-bats. So I've still got two weeks left, a lot of ABs. But you know, I'm going to keep approaching the game like I always have."