He’ll be better remembered Tuesday for his game-winning home run, but Eduardo Escobar doesn’t consider himself a home-run hitter. No, if he has a specialty, Escobar said, it’s the one recommended to him by former Twin Torii Hunter.
“Torii told me: doubles, doubles, doubles,” Escobar said. “He told me, put the ball in the gap, run hard, watch for your chance, and get doubles, doubles, doubles.”
By following that advice, Escobar has created a small sideshow to this week’s series with the White Sox: Escobar entered Tuesday’s doubleheader with 20 doubles this season, one short of Chicago first baseman Jose Abreu’s major-league-leading total.
Escobar tied Abreu in the fourth inning of Game 1, slugging a ball to the warning track in left-center, which bounced into the bullpen for a ground-rule double. But Abreu struck back in the top of the fifth, ripping a fastball to those bullpens on one bounce to drive in a run and give him 22 doubles.
But in the third inning of Game 2, Escobar hit No. 22 of his own, and did it in his favorite way: He saw a slight opportunity and took advantage with his own hustle. Escobar’s looping line drive came down between left fielder Charlie Tilson and center fielder Adam Engel, and it was a long run for both. When Tilson slowed up and caught the ball on the bounce, Escobar sped up and beat the throw to second, clapping his hands in delight.
And his 23rd of the season in the eighth inning, making him the MLB doubles leader, was nearly identical: a long line drive between left and center.
Joe Mauer has been out of action for nearly three weeks, but in the meantime, another Mauer has been getting plenty of attention. Ken Mauer, second cousin to the Twins first baseman, is refereeing in the NBA Finals for the 13th consecutive season. And the refs haven’t exactly been invisible in the Warriors-Cavs series.
“He called the offensive foul [on Kevin Durant] that got overturned” in Game 1, Mauer noted. “It’s fun to see him out there when I turn on big games, but it looks like a tough job.”
He’s been doing it for a long time. Ken Mauer, cousin to Joe’s father, Jake, is in his 32nd season as an NBA referee, and has called more than 200 playoff games. Game 1 last Thursday was the 63-year-old University of Minnesota grad’s 19th NBA Finals game.
“With all the running those guys do, it’s impressive for him to be doing that at his age,” Mauer said. “Not sure I could run that much.”
Actually, Joe Mauer did some running Tuesday as he prepared for a return, perhaps later this week — “I’m not sure when we’re going to collectively decide that it’s time,” manager Paul Molitor said — from a cervical strain and a bout with recurring concussion-like symptoms. Mauer took about 10 minutes of batting practice, fielded several ground balls and pop flies in the infield, and jogged in the outfield. “Feeling good, but more to do,” he said.
So when he watches an NBA game, does he ever want to boo his cousin? “Nah, he gets it enough, being a referee,” Mauer said with a laugh.
• Ervin Santana’s finger surgeon, Dr. Charles Melone, “was really pleased with where he was, compared to where he saw him a little over a month ago,” Molitor said of a report he received via text. The All-Star righthander, sidelined this season because of surgery on the middle finger of his pitching hand, expects to throw again Thursday, the first step toward beginning a new minor league rehab assignment.
• Logan Morrison wasn’t available for the doubleheader, Molitor said, because of “a little issue with his back. … We’re going to have to monitor and see what it turns into.” Molitor said Morrison felt stiff after Sunday’s game, and didn’t improve over the off day.
• The Twins are confident they will be able to sign first-round pick Trevor Larnach, an outfielder from Oregon State, shortly after his season ends with the Beavers. They made headway on the general parameters of a deal, but some details have yet to be ironed out.
Staff writer La Velle E. Neal III contributed to this report.