All eyes on Joe Mauer as Blue Jays host Twins
The Minnesota Twins and Toronto Blue Jays have long been out of the playoff race in the American League, but their matchup in the penultimate game of the season won't go totally unnoticed.
That's because Twins all-star Joe Mauer has an outside chance of winning his fourth batting title and he'll likely need a big game Tuesday night when he faces Blue Jays rookie Chad Jenkins for the first time.
Minnesota (66-94) is trying to avoid finishing with the worst record in the AL for the second straight year — it is one game behind Cleveland — after winning the Central Division in 2009 and 2010.
Not much has gone right for the Twins this season, but Mauer's comeback year has given their fans something to root for down the stretch.
After being limited to 82 games and hitting a career-low .287 in 2011, Mauer can set a career high for games if he plays Tuesday and Wednesday. That appears likely to happen as he's hitting .322 and chasing Detroit's Miguel Cabrera (.329) in the race for the league's batting crown.
"He wants to be in there battling for it," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Mauer won batting titles in 2006, 2008 and 2009.
"He's pretty impressive," Gardenhire told the Twins' official website.
"We've watched this for a number of years around here. He just continues on his pace.
"As I've said all along, people get frustrated with Joe if he's hitting just barely over .300. This guy, he's totally incredible — he can flat out hit."
Mauer went 1 for 5 on Monday as Toronto (71-89) won 6-5 on rookie outfielder Anthony Gose's walkoff single in the 10th inning. The Blue Jays, who tied the game in the ninth, have won five of eight while Minnesota has lost three in a row.
Mauer will now try to take advantage of the inexperienced Jenkins (0-3, 4.67 ERA), who is making his third career start.
The right-hander has a 4.15 earned-run average in dropping his first two after 10 relief appearances. A first-round draft pick in 2009, Jenkins had his contract purchased from double-A New Hampshire on Aug. 5.
He'll be opposed by Anthony Swarzak (3-5, 4.91), who will get another opportunity to show the Twins he has what it takes to be a major-league starter.
The right-hander will be making his fifth start of the year and 44th appearance overall as he takes the rotation spot of Samuel Deduno, who is out with irritation in his left eye.
Swarzak's four starts came in April and May, and he lost all of them while posting an 8.35 ERA. He has a 4.05 ERA as a reliever, pitching three scoreless innings in his only career appearance against Toronto on May 10.
In 27 career starts, Swarzak is 6-16 with a 5.74 ERA.