Mauer, Young fuel Twins' comeback win
Catcher hits two solo homers, left fielder drives in four
ARLINGTON -- When a team continually finds itself falling behind early in contests, the concern is that players might start to hang their heads and think, "Here we go again."So when the Twins trailed the Rangers, 5-0, after three innings on Tuesday and watched their starter Carl Pavano pitch just four innings -- something that has happened too often for the club's starters as of it late -- it seemed like perhaps this was the time for a letdown. After all, the club was without two of its biggest sluggers -- Justin Morneau and Jason Kubel -- and the bullpen had already seen its share of work, having tossed 17 2/3 innings over the previous three games. But these Twins have shown lately, even in defeat, that they will continue to try to claw their way back. And on Tuesday night, they finally managed a comeback effort that didn't fall short, as they rallied behind the hot hitting of Joe Mauer and Delmon Young to capture a 9-6 victory over the Rangers. "That was fun," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "That took a lot of pressure off of us tonight. Guys have been battling pretty good, but a lot of good things happened tonight. You could sense guys were loosening up in the dugout and playing pretty good." While it was a team offensive effort, the comeback was catapulted by none other than the team's most potent threat this season -- Mauer. Mauer's sensational season added another chapter with his 3-for-5 night on Tuesday, as he belted two home runs and tallied three RBIs to help the Twins to just their fourth win in their last 13 contests. Mauer has been on a tear through the month of August. After seeing his batting average drop to a season-low .353 on Aug. 1, Mauer has since batted .524 during a 15-game hitting streak. Over that time, he's blasted seven homers including the two against the Rangers on Tuesday night -- marking his fourth multi-homer game of his career and his second of the season. "He's playing Little League baseball in the big leagues, where everything is a hit," Gardenhire said. "That's just incredible. "We run out of things to say [about Mauer]. We just have to let him keep going." Mauer tallied the club's first run by blasting homer No. 24 of the year into the Twins' bullpen in left-center field to lead off the fourth inning. A four-run sixth inning by Minnesota tied the game at 5 before Philip Humber gave the lead back to the Rangers thanks to a throwing error that allowed one run to score. But Texas' lead didn't last long, as Mauer led off the seventh inning with his 25th long ball of the season. The 407-foot shot to dead center knotted the game up at 6. "He's the hottest hitter in the league right now," said Rangers pitcher Jason Jennings, who allowed Mauer's second home run of the night. "That's my mistake. You can't let him beat you. That pitch was supposed to be inside. I made the wrong pitch to the wrong guy."
The catcher's third hit of the night came in the eighth inning, when he drove in the Twins' final run with an RBI single up the middle.The 3-for-5 performance raised Mauer's American League-leading batting average to .383, and he's well on his way to his third batting title in the last four seasons. And with the numbers he's putting up this season, Mauer seems to be building a candidacy for perhaps his first AL MVP Award. What Mauer is doing has left his opponents and teammates in awe. Mauer, however, said he's just trying to keep this hot streak going for as long as he can. "I feel good at the plate. I was saying earlier, when you feel tired and sore, you don't try to do too much at the plate," Mauer said. "I think that's kind of where I'm at. ... I've been relaxed and the ball seems to be coming in there at a good speed." With Morneau out Tuesday due to an inner-ear infection and Kubel leaving the contest in the first inning after fouling a ball off the top of his left knee, Mauer got some help in the comeback from another offensive source. Young tallied a season-high four RBIs, driving in two with a double as part of the four-run sixth inning and adding a two-out, two-run homer in the seventh to put the Twins ahead for the first time all night. "I think he's made a conscious effort to try to drive the ball," Gardenhire said of Young. "It's much needed. We need him to swing the bat and drive the ball. He's really been working at it, and it's starting to pay off." The Twins had some other positives as well. Joe Nathan came in to pitch the ninth and picked up his 30th save of the season. It was his first save opportunity since July 29, and the Twins had been the only team in baseball without one in the month of August. As the losses have piled up recently for Minnesota, its postseason hopes have started to fade, but the team is determined not to let them wash away. With the first-place Tigers picking up a win over the Mariners on Tuesday night, the Twins' victory kept them 6 1/2 games back of Detroit in the AL Central. But Minnesota's hope is that a comeback victory like the one it captured against Texas on Tuesday might be just what the club needs -- a victory to jump-start a winning streak that's proved elusive thus far. "This game can throw a lot of stuff at you, and ever since I've been here we've had a lot of success," Mauer said. "A lot of guys haven't had to go through stretches like this. I think we're still in it. We're going to keep coming to the park until they tell us we can't come anymore. It's frustrating, because you hope that you learn from some of the mistakes, and some that we're making are the same ones over and over. Hopefully we can turn the corner."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.