TORONTO - Joe Mauer on Tuesday went 0-for-3 with a walk as the Twins lost 4-3 to Toronto in the penultimate game of the season. His chances of a fourth American League batting title are very slim, but he had a reason to feel good.
Mauer has 637 plate appearances this season, establishing a career high. And he intends to play in the finale on Wednesday, which would give him a career high in games played in a season.
After taking heat for injuries in recent seasons, Mauer answered the bell for most of 2012.
"I'm proud of how many games I played and have been out there," he said. "It has been a battle, but it has been pretty good at that end."
Mauer's hitless day at the plate dropped his season average to .320. Meanwhile, Detroit's Miguel Cabrera went 2-for-3 and is batting .331.
Through Sunday's games, Mauer was batting .323 while Cabrera was at .325. But Cabrera has gone off since then and is closing in on the majors' first Triple Crown since 1967.
"The guy is swinging it," Mauer said. "He's definitely had a great year. It's pretty impressive."
The Twins could have used a hit from anyone, but instead dropped their fourth game in a row to fall to 66-95 on the season. They have lost at least 95 games in back-to-back seasons for the first time since they moved from Washington in 1961.
They also clinched the worst record in the American League for the second year in a row with Cleveland's 4-3, 12-inning victory over the White Sox. They will finish last in the division in back-to-back years for the first time since 1999-2000.
Anthony Swarzak started on Tuesday in place of the injured Samuel Deduno and paid the price when he got too much of the plate. He retired the first six batters he faced before Adeiny Hechavarria doubled in the third inning and scored on Rajai Davis' single. Kelly Johnson cranked a two-run homer in the fourth and Yunel Escobar added a RBI single in the fifth.
Morneau looks ahead
Justin Morneau won't get a chance to play in front of his fellow Canadians this week because he has worn down and has been bothered at times by a sore left wrist. Otherwise, his recovery season after two injury-filled years went well.
He returned to playing first base on a regular basis and showed flashes of being a force in the middle of the lineup, batting .267 with 19 homers and 77 RBI.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said Morneau had a good year, considering what he had to do to come back and stay on the field next year.
Morneau will head into his first normal offseason in years. He plans to start workouts in November.
"Have a good offseason, go into it healthy," Morneau said of his plans, "then come into next year in spring training just worried about playing the game."
Morneau, Josh Willingham (shoulder) and Ryan Doumit (thumb) are all expected to sit Wednesday after missing the first two games of the series.
• The finalists for the Major League Baseball Player's Choice Awards were announced, and no Twins were named. Mauer has a case to be in the running for AL Comeback Player of the Year, but the finalists are Chicago's Adam Dunn and Alex Rios and Los Angeles' Kendrys Morales. Mauer, by the way, has sent word to USA baseball officials that he will play in the World Baseball Classic next year if they want him.
• Third baseman Miguel Sano, who spent 2012 at Class A Beloit and is the Twins' top prospect, was named the No. 2 prospect in the Midwest League by Baseball America.