Postgame: Slumping Mauer falls from AL batting lead

Posted on July 20th, 2009 – 12:35 AM
By Joe Christensen

ARLINGTON, TEXAS — Joe Mauer fell out of the AL batting lead Sunday, as the first 0-for-6 game of his career dropped his average to .358, leaving him behind Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki, who is at .363.

Mauer went 1-for-13 in the Rangers series, and the lone hit was a soft single to center on Friday. Maybe it’s a Texas thing, as Mauer is batting .206 (13-for-63) for his career in Arlington. Then again, his average has fallen 71 points since June 16.

Mauer wasn’t alone Sunday. The first five hitters in the order — Denard Span, Alexi Casilla, Mauer, Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer — combined to go 1-for-24. In 12 innings, the Twins combined for seven hits in 41 at-bats.

MISSED CHANCES 

Here’s what Sunday’s 5-3, 12-inning loss cost the Twins:

(*) A chance to leapfrog Chicago into second place and pull within one game of first place Detroit in the AL Central.

(*) A chance to complete their first sweep on the road since June 24-26, 2008 at San Diego.

(*) A chance to complete their first three-game sweep at Texas since 1976.

DICKEY ALL CLASS

The first question to Twins pitcher R.A. Dickey came from a Texas reporter, not me, and it was a doozy.

“Do you regret throwing that fastball?”

“Of course I regret it,” Dickey said. “That was all me. [Brian] Duensing didn’t deserve a loss, I did.”

If Dickey wasn’t such a stand-up guy, he might have snapped. He had just given up Ian Kinsler’s two-run, walkoff home run.

The effectiveness of Dickey’s knuckleball varies from game to game, but, “It was good, it was really good, which makes it even tougher,” he said. “I had a good knuckleball, and it was going three different directions.”

Kinsler, the third player since 1969 to hit both a leadoff homer and a walkoff homer in the same game, had already seen five knuckleballs, ranging in speed from 73-77 mph. So Dickey figured the fastball would “maybe freeze him, kind of defrost him, after seeing [five] knuckleballs, you run one up there 85-86, hopefully he’s late on it or he takes it for a strike, which has happened during the year.”

With four reporters huddled around him, Dickey continued his tortured analysis.

“But in that situation, you’ve got a base open at first, everything played to me living or dying with the knuckleball the whole night,” he said. ”That’s what I should have done and it was my fault.”

PUNTO’S WEB GEM

I was convinced Nick Punto purposely missed Hank Blalock’s slicing looper in the sixth inning, so he could turn it into a double play. The Texas runners had no choice but to freeze, and the result was Punto’s unassisted double play.

“I was actually trying to catch that ball,” Punto said. “It was one of those things where it worked out perfect for us. The umpires couldn’t call the infield fly rule, and I truly went after it. I got it on the short hop, and luckily it bounced off my face and I got a double play.”

Punto also had his first three-hit game of the season.

NOTE: La Velle is our point man in Oakland and Anaheim, so head to his blog for updates. You can also follow us on Twitter @LaVelleNeal and @JoeCStarTribune.

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