|Joe Mauer American League Batting Champion 2008|
Monday 9/29/2008 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.
"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."
Tuesday 9/30/2008 - CHICAGO
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.
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.
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.