ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A trio of extras as the Twins draw with a half-game of climbing out of the AL cellar:
Yeah, Joe Mauer feels right at home under Tropicana Field’s giant dome. Or maybe August just suits him.
Either way, Mauer continued his hot hitting on Friday, smacking a solid single to center in the first inning, then clubbing a two-run double in the ninth, with first base open, to extend the Twins’ lead. He also drew a walk against rookie lefthander Blake Snell, whose pitches reached 95 mph.
“He’s tough,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said of Snell. “To watch a kid with an arm like that have the command he did, it’s impressive.”
Not as impressive as Mauer these days, though. His 2-for-4 night brought Mauer’s totals in August — all of five days old — to 14-for-22, a .636 clip that has added 21 points to his season average, almost unheard of this late in the year. It comes complete with six doubles, a triple and a home run, too, so these aren’t ground-ball singles that are skipping through.
In fact, Mauer’s six doubles are more than he’s had in any month this season, and more than in all but two months the past three years. And 26 days remain in August.
Just imagine if he could play them all here, too. Mauer, already the owner of the top batting average in Tropicana Field history (minimum 100 plate appearances), somehow raised that average once again: He’s now at .402 in 31 games here, with an amazing 1.087 OPS. Maybe he just misses playing under a big off-white roof.
Molitor didn’t use his manager’s challenge on Friday, and for a few moments, he thought he might regret it. In the fifth inning, Ervin Santana’s 1-1 fastball rode in on Steven Souza, and umpire Tom Hallion ruled that it hit his hand, awarding him first base.
“I yelled out to [catcher] Kurt [Suzuki, asking] if it got him, and he said it did,” Molitor said. “We got word later it might have hit the bat and not the batter, so I was a little frustrated I didn’t take a better look at that. Those things can bite you, especially when [Tim] Beckham follows with a double, but he buckled up and was able to get out of it unscathed.”
Struck out the side, actually, to keep the game tied.
Corey Dickerson swung and missed a Santana fastball to end the first inning, but his follow-through smacked Suzuki on the left wrist, and the Twins catcher jumped in pain. Naturally, Suzuki was due to lead off the second inning.
“That’s the way it always works,” he said.
Suzuki was still shaking his hand as he batted, and said his hand was numb for a while. He grounded out to second base.
The feeling came back, though, and Suzuki said after the game that his hand is fine.