Veteran first baseman matches season high with 5 RBIs in victory
By Shane Jackson
MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins first baseman Joe Mauer took his teammates and manager by surprise when he turned on a pitch, in a big way, in the sixth inning Sunday.
Mauer's grand slam served as the signature blow in a six-run inning that wrapped up Minnesota's 13-7 win over the Blue Jays at Target Field. It was Mauer's fourth career grand slam and first since Spet. 1, 2012.
"I think he kind of shocked us all by turning on that pitch," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "You don't see the pulled homers too much, but it couldn't come at a better time to spread it out a little bit."
Mauer, 34, is the oldest Twins player to hit a slam since Molitor hit one at 40 years old on April 3, 1997, vs. Detroit. Mauer's four grand slams are tied for ninth most in club history.
Mauer finished the game a triple shy of the cycle and tied his season high with five RBIs. He helped Minnesota increase its lead for the second American League Wild Card spot to two games over the Angels. It was also the latest example of Mauer's composure in key situations, a trait he has put on display throughout his career.
"I think he had it at a young age," Molitor said. "A lot of guys acquire a better approach in those situations as their career unfolds. It always seemed to me that he makes the guy make good pitches."
Mauer started the at-bat by watching a sinker from Toronto reliever Chris Rowley go by him for a strike. He then fouled off a 91.9-mph four-seamer to fall further behind in the count, before Rowley delivered an 0-2 heater that was pulled it over the right-field wall.
According to Statcast™, the slam traveled 398 feet with an exit velocity of 104.7 mph. It gave the Twins, who were down 5-0 heading into the bottom of the second inning, a 12-5 advantage and their fourth grand slam of the season. All four have come since Aug. 8.
"[Bases-loaded situations] are fun," Mauer said. "You try not to do anything more than you need to. Hitting the home run was great, but I was just trying to get a good pitch. I try not to do too much in those situations. Today it just worked out that way."
Minnesota hit four home runs in the finale and has now belted a homer in 16 straight games, dating back to Sept. 1. That is tied for the longest streak in club history, matching stretches from 1979 and earlier this season.
The Twins have recorded a Major League-leading 74 home runs in 39 games since Aug. 8. That's due to a combination of the club's young core finding a rhythm at the plate in the thick of a postseason chase, as well as veterans like Mauer continuing to deliver in key situations.
"It's been enjoyable because of what we are doing collectively," Mauer said. "It's been a lot of fun, for me, to see that progress. We just have a good vibe going right now, and we are trying to keep it that way."
Shane Jackson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Minneapolis. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.