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Mauer squashes no-hitter in ninth for third time

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DETROIT -- It's a situation Joe Mauer would rather not be in.

After all, who wants to be on the wrong side of a no-hitter?

But after Mauer came through with a one-out single up the middle to break up Tigers right-hander Anibal Sanchez's no-hit bid with one out in the ninth on Friday night, it marked the third time in his career he'd broken up a no-no in the ninth.

Mauer also did it in on May 6, 2008, against the White Sox when he ended Gavin Floyd's no-hitter with two outs in the ninth, and did it again in on Aug. 23, 2010 against Rangers reliever Neftali Feliz with a one-out single in the final inning.

"Every time I go up there, I try to get a hit or get on base or do something positive on the offensive side," Mauer said of his propensity to break up no-hitters late in the game. "I think everybody is aware of it. You just try to go up there and have a good at-bat and put a good swing on it."

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he isn't surprised Mauer has been able to break up potential no-hitters late in games simply because of Mauer's natural hitting ability. The catcher is the leader among active players with a .324 career average in more than 1,100 games.

"He's just a great hitter," Gardenhire said. "I'm sure on their side, he was the one guy they didn't want to come up in the ninth inning."

Gardenhire was right, as Tigers manager Jim Leyland echoed that sentiment that they'd rather be facing just about anyone else than Mauer in that situation.

"He's one of the best in baseball," Leyland said. "There's no question about that. He's a great hitter. It's certainly no disgrace to give up a hit to a guy like that, particularly that late in the game when you're getting a little tired and your pitch count's getting up a little more than it normally would be."

Sanchez, who was still able to throw a one-hit shutout with 12 strikeouts, simply tipped his cap to the former American League MVP and three-time batting champ for his hit on a 1-1 curveball.

"It's really hard to face that guy four times or five times in one game and dominate," Sanchez said. "This guy, he's so smart. I tried to make my best pitch. I strike him out with off-speed. I tried to throw early. I didn't want to get in the count and throw it again. But in the end, he got the hit. But I feel good. I'll take my nine innings."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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