DETROIT -- Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera is competing for the first offensive Triple Crown in 45 years. Twins catcher and three-time batting champion Joe Mauer isn't going to make it easy for him.
"There's 10 games left and the way he's swinging the bat, it would be pretty tough to catch him. But I'm still going to go out there and do what I can do," Mauer said following Minnesota's 10-4 win in the opener of Sunday's doubleheader at Comerica Park.
Mauer improved his batting average to .326, the second-best mark in the American League behind Cabrera's .332. Mauer did so with a 3-for-4 performance that included four RBIs, heading the onslaught of Max Scherzer and the Tigers' bullpen.
If he keeps tallying hits like the one in the sixth inning off Scherzer, Mauer might just prevent history. It was his second hit, a slow-rolling dribbler to second base that didn't even reach the infield dirt. But Mauer beat it out for a single. Two innings prior, he struck a line drive to left field that he thought might go for extra bases. Instead, it was snagged by Andy Dirks.
"That's the way the game is," Mauer said. "You square a ball up in the left-center gap the [at-bat] before and it gets caught. Hit one off the end [of the bat] and it's a hit. ... But it doesn't matter what time of the year, you'll take hits like that."
Coincidentally, the hit sparked a five-run rally to turn a two-run Twins' deficit into a three-run lead. Ben Revere had tripled the previous at-bat and scored easily on Mauer's grounder. Three hits, one walk and a wild pitch later, the Twins led, 5-2.
"Just a couple of bloops and all hell broke loose," said Tigers skipper Jim Leyland.
Mauer's hits might not be traveling over the fence, but even remaining in the park they do some damage. He followed up his infield grounder with a rare two-run triple to deep left-center. It notched his fourth RBI and a third triple this season.
"He can hit. He's gonna get his hits," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "I don't know what the other guys ahead of him are going to do, but he's gonna get his hits. He's swinging really, really good right now."
After belting a home run Saturday, Cabrera had a "quiet" day, going 1-for-4 with an RBI double. Cabrera finished the game batting .357 in September, compared to Mauer's .420 clip.
Still, the 29-year-old backstop insists he's not focused on his fourth batting title.
"I'm still going out there and doing the things I normally do, and do what the situation calls for," he said. "It's just good to be out playing. That was my biggest goal, just getting out there and playing."
Mauer's game perhaps overshadowed a rare spectacular performance by a Twins pitcher. Left-hander Scott Diamond gave the team exactly the type of outing they hoped for.
The 26-year-old provided seven quality innings to spare the bullpen for Sunday night's game, and he outdueled arguably the hottest pitcher in baseball.
"He gave us a chance more than anything else," Gardenhire said. "Stayed out their for a long time and pitched really well against a very good offense over there."
Diamond encountered trouble on two occasions in the fourth and fifth innings. He had thrown 3 1/3 perfect innings on 32 pitches when Omar Infante recorded the first hit on an 88-mph fastball and Cabrera plated the second baseman with a hard-hit double off the left-field wall. Delmon Young knocked Cabrera in, and just like that Detroit had a two-run lead.
In the fifth, Diamond walked Austin Jackson to bring Infante back up. He said retiring Infante with a groundout to shortstop in that at-bat was the key to completing seven innings and earning his 12th win.
"I knew I needed to get Infante there," he said. "If I got first and second with Cabrera coming up, it's a dangerous situation."
After retiring Infante, he struck out Cabrera in the next inning. It was only Cabrera's second K in his previous 20 at-bats.
For Mauer and Cabrera, the race continues. The race also continues for the AL Central lead, which the Twins will also have a say in, as they have four games left against the Tigers.
"To see him chasing [the Triple Crown] while they're chasing a playoff spot is pretty fun," Mauer said.
Anthony Odoardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.