The bad part about a slump is that it stays with you even when you’re not at the ballpark. For Jorge Polanco, it meant more than a month of living with frustration.
“The game is more mental than anything,” Polanco said Tuesday, a day after collecting as many hits in a single game — four — as he had in the month of July, with 57 trips to the plate. “Sometimes when things don’t go so well, I worry too much. I shouldn’t worry as much as I do, but it’s one of those things where you just keep thinking about it. And that doesn’t help.”
His manager noticed how absorbed the 24-year-old shortstop was getting by the constant setbacks — and he’s noticed some “lightness,” too, now that Polanco has had a few more successes. “He was out there getting early work with a little bigger smile,” Paul Molitor said. “We’re just happy to see it’s turned here in the short term, in terms of quality at-bats that have come with the reward of some hits.”
The work part hasn’t changed throughout, though. Even as Polanco went 8-for-77 (.104) from June 24 to Aug. 1, he avoided tinkering with his stance or his swing. He had had good results before, he reasoned, and didn’t believe his problem was mechanical.
“It’s nothing different. I just keep working, keep practicing, knowing it will change,” he said. “Only thing [that changed]: I worked with my hitting coaches on waiting for my pitch. Just try to swing at better pitches.”
That got harder, he said, when his problems at the plate began costing him playing time. After starting at least 21 games in each of the season’s first two months, he was in the starting lineup only 14 times in July. That’s when the worrying began.
“I told myself, control what you can control. I was on the bench, but I knew if I kept working and doing my thing, it would change,” said Polanco, who had two more hits in Tuesday’s 11-4 victory over the Brewers. “I just keep working. I’ll always keep working.”
Mauer surpasses Oliva
Joe Mauer singled in the first inning, breaking his 0-for-12 skid — and breaking his tie with Tony Oliva.
Mauer, in his 14th season with the Twins, had been stuck on 1,917 hits for the entire six-game homestand. That’s the same number of hits Oliva had in his 15-year career in Minnesota — only Kirby Puckett (2,304) and Rod Carew (2,085) had more.
“He’s as familiar as anybody with Twins history, being from here, and I know he doesn’t take for granted when he has a chance” to reach such milestones, Molitor said.
Mauer’s first-inning single was also the 2,811th time he has reached base, passing Puckett for second-most ever in Twins history. Only Harmon Killebrew (3,072, excluding his time with the Washington Senators), had more.
Two Molitors in Milwaukee
Molitor has a doubleheader scheduled Thursday, but he won’t mind the long day. Before the Twins-Brewers game at Miller Park that night, he will sit in the stands at nearby Helfaer Field — a Little League diamond built on the land once occupied by County Stadium, where Molitor starred for 15 seasons — to watch his 10-year-old son, Ben.
The Edina Little League that the younger Molitor plays for was invited to send a team to play a team of Milwaukee youngsters, though the manager said he had nothing to do with the scheduling. But the team will bus to Wisconsin on Wednesday, be on the field for batting practice, watch the major league game, and then play their own Thursday morning.
Molitor promised not to be a backseat manager. “I cheer, but I’m not an over-the-top [parent],” he said.