Yes, Joe Mauer was aware that it had been a long week at the plate. Maybe he didn’t know that he was 1-for-23, but hitters know when they’re not getting on base enough.
“Absolutely,” Mauer said after breaking out of that slump with a memorable grand slam, the final blow in the Twins’ 10-5 victory on Tuesday. “This time of year, you’re grinding. Your body doesn’t feel too great. You might make adjustments, not even knowing it.”
And it didn’t help that he had grounded out, walked and struck out in his three previous plate appearances in the game. “You try to wipe away what happened the first two or three at-bats and get another opportunity,” Mauer said. “And I’m glad I was able to do what I was able to do.”
Making the grand slam even sweeter? Well, truthfully, Mauer gets a little tired of losing to the Yankees. The Twins have never — never — won the season series against New York during Mauer’s 15-year career, and of course, they’re 1-13 in the postseason against New York with Mauer on the roster.
This doesn’t make a dent in that. But “It’s always nice to beat those guys, I’ll tell you that,” Mauer said. “Just coming up in situations like that, the guys are fighting up and down the lineup, giving you the opportunity to do that. Being able to come through, that’s a really good feeling.”
So get out of here with any of that slump talk. That’s Paul Molitor’s opinion, anyway.
“Twenty-three at-bats, in terms of how many he’s at in his career [6,867 after tonight] — I don’t think he gets too bogged down by any particular stretch at this juncture,” the Twins’ manager said.
Mauer’s grand slam, to straightaway center field, was even more impressive given the windy conditions, Molitor said.
“The ball wasn’t carrying particularly well, with that wind tonight,” Molitor said. “To hit it out where he hit it out, you know he got all of it.”
Yankees righthander Tommy Kahnle got ahead of Mauer right away, but couldn’t get the three-time batting champion to bite on a couple of low changeups. So on 3-2, he was forced to throw a fastball over the plate.
“Kahnle throws relatively hard. He’s pretty much a fastball-changeup combination, and it looked like Joe had a pretty good feel for recognizing that changeup coming out of his hand, in terms of not expanding the [strike] zone,” Molitor said. “He finally made him get to a fastball count, and he deposited it.”