Phil Miller covered three seasons of Twins baseball, but that was at a different ballpark for a different newspaper. Now Miller returns to the baseball beat after joining the Star Tribune as the Gopher football writer in 2010, and he won't miss the dingy dome for a minute. In addition to the Twins and Gophers, Miller covered the Utah Jazz and the NBA for six years at The Salt Lake Tribune.
SEATTLE -- With two outs in the ninth inning Saturday night, Darin Masroianni drew a huge walk for the Twins, bringing Joe Mauer to the plate in a tie game at Safeco Field.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge summoned lefthander Lucas Luetge, who quickly fell behind in the count 3-0. Mauer had the green light, but he opted not to swing at a sinker down the middle. On 3-1, Luetge threw a slider for strike two. On 3-2, Luetge missed low with another slider, and Mauer took his walk.
Six pitches, zero swings.
That loaded the bases for Josh Willingham, but Wedge brought in closer Tom Wilhelmsen, a righthander with filthy stuff. Willingham flied out to right field, ending the inning, and the Mariners wound up winning in their half of the ninth.
I didn’t have time to ask Mauer about his plate appearance, but I’m just going to say this: He has to have more urgency to swing the bat there. His otherworldly .414 on-base percentage is a big reason for whatever success the Twins have had offensively this year. But sometimes, a guy making $23 million per year needs to take it upon himself to take his shot.
If the Twins had one at-bat to win a game, the Twins would take Mauer/Luetge over Willingham/Wilhelmsen any day. Never mind that Mauer has 60 RBI and Willingham has 89. This was a spot for a batting champ, and Mauer is batting .319 compared to Willingham’s .259.
Mauer has to recognize this and take a rip at that 3-0 sinker. Maybe he figured he’d get another crack at 3-1, and Luetge threw a pretty good slider for strike two, but after another errant sinker, Mauer was bending down, unhooking his shin pad, waiting for someone else to do the heavy lifting.
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