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Gardenhire sees Mauer hitting ball hard

Gardenhire sees Mauer hitting ball hard

MINNEAPOLIS -- There's no way around it: Joe Mauer is having a down year statistically.

With his average at an all-time low through 45 games (.277) and a particular inability to knock in runners in scoring position (.194 in 36 at-bats), he has not been able to ignite the Twin's offense from the No. 2 spot in the order.

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The six-time All-Star had an opportunity to tie the game with Eduardo Escobar on third base in the seventh inning of Wednesday night's 1-0 loss to the Rangers, but Mauer struck out swinging for the final out, which elicited a chorus of boos from the Minnesota faithful.

"Fans are frustrated," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "They show it. It's always been part of the game. I think for Joe, he hears it, believe me.

-- Alex Smith

"I just hope that he doesn't put more pressure on himself. I want him to just keep swinging, and he'll be fine."

Both Gardenhire and Mauer are chalking up the first baseman's struggles to bad luck and opposing teams' outfield shifts.

"I'm feeling pretty good actually, which is even more frustrating because I've been hitting a lot of balls hard and just not having much to show for it," Mauer said. "Hopefully that turns here soon, and I keep having some good at-bats and hopefully they start falling."

Mauer's line-drive percentage (28.6 percent) is at an all-time high, but so is his ground ball/fly ball ratio (3.00).

"I don't know if you start counting all the balls that this guy hits on the button," Gardenhire said. "I can promise you it's as many as anybody in the league. He hits it on the barrel of the bat.

"I think it's an eye-opener when we say, 'Joe Mauer is struggling a little bit.' It's an eye-opener for everybody, because you're just not used to seeing that or hearing that. It's really hard to fathom for him, because he's such a good hitter."

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

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