10/01/08 2:26 AM ET
Mauer, Morneau show they're human
All-Stars struggle to get on base, hurting Twins' chance at win
By Nick Zaccardi / MLB.com
For the first time this season, Mauer and Morneau were unable to reach base in a game both players started. They went 0-for-6 with three strikeouts against White Sox left-hander John Danks. They were at the heart of the team's success for 162 games, but they struggled in No. 163.
"We really couldn't get anything going," said Mauer, who had a rare two-strikeout game. "Obviously, Justin's been a big part of our success this year. He's had an unbelievable year. We just couldn't do anything tonight. It happens."
But not often, and especially not against Danks, whom they had hit a combined .536 (15-of-28) against. Neither hit the ball out of the infield. Morneau continued his September struggles with a strikeout, a foul popup to third and a 1-6-3 groundout that deflected off Danks' glove.
"Probably just trying to do too much, just wanting to come through every time I come up there, it's no different than the rest of the year," Morneau said. "I want to be up there in the eighth or ninth inning with the game on the line. That's why I hit fourth. It's my job to drive in runs. Sometimes you get it done, sometimes you don't."
Neither got a chance to hit off closer Bobby Jenks in the ninth. Mauer, whose only contact was an unsuccessful bunt in the seventh, was left on deck when Alexi Casilla flied out to center for the final out.
It's hard to dwell on positives at this point, but they contributed excellent seasons. Morneau drilled 23 homers and drove in 129 RBIs. His batting average, .300, was nearly 30 points higher than in 2007. In addition to missing the playoffs, a .243 September severely hampered his MVP chances.
"Whatever happens, happens," Morneau said of the MVP race. "That's the furthest thing from my mind right now. Making the playoffs was the only goal that we had coming into the season. ... There's a lot of guys that can be mentioned in there and deserve it. That's the last thing I'm going to lose sleep over this winter."
Mauer hung on to beat MVP candidate Dustin Pedroia for the American League batting title, .328 to .326, taking the crown for the second time in three years. He also drove in a career-high 85 RBIs and set a career low with 50 strikeouts in a career-high 536 at-bats.
"Justin Morneau -- him and Mauer -- those two guys in the middle are the reason we're right where we're at right now," manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Nick Zaccardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.