Mauer closing in on second batting title
Twins catcher almost assured of having best average in AL
MINNEAPOLIS -- Joe Mauer will have to wait at least one more day to be crowned the American League batting champion. But that distinction appears to be a foregone conclusion.
Mauer went 2-for-5 on Sunday against the Royals, which kept his American League-leading batting average at .330. The 25-year-old catcher had entered Sunday with a five-point lead in the batting race over Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia.
Pedroia went 2-for-4 in the first game of a doubleheader against the Yankees to raise his average to .326. But Pedroia was out of the lineup for the evening contest, meaning Mauer is all but assured of his second batting title.
Assuming Pedroia does not have an at-bat during the evening game, Mauer would have to go 0-for-7 during Tuesday's potential division tiebreaker with the White Sox to fall behind.
Mauer clinches the title if Chicago loses to Detroit on Monday. But if the White Sox beat the Tigers to force a tiebreaker with the Twins to decide the AL Central title, that game would count as a regular-season contest and thus the stats would be official.
Mauer said the batting title would mean a lot to him.
"But like I've always said, we're trying to do bigger things here," he said. "If we get to the playoffs, and [I win the batting title], I'll be a happy guy, that's for sure."
Mauer won his first batting crown in 2006, when he hit .347.Mauer is the only AL catcher to ever win a batting title. He could become the second catcher in Major League history to capture two such honors. Ernie Lombardi earned a pair of batting titles in the National League with the Reds in 1938 and 1942. Mauer has made a career-high 134 starts behind the plate this year. His previous high was 119 in 2006. "That's one thing I wanted to do this year," Mauer said. "Talking to [Twins manager Ron Gardenhire] in Spring Training, I wanted to catch more games. We were kind of joking around earlier today. He said, 'You got what you asked for.' What it comes down to is I want to be in every game. Being a catcher, it's pretty tough to catch 162. To go out there and catch as many games as I did this year was a good feeling." Mauer has not had the luxury of sitting during the season's final days to clinch the batting title, because his services have been needed daily in a tight division race. "I want to be in the game," Mauer said. "[The batting title is] something I look at as you have to earn it. You go out there and swing the bat, not take it off just because you try to sit on the average or anything like that. You go out and try to win ballgames. If it comes down to that, that's what I'm going to have to do."
Thor Nystrom is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.