MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins have grown accustomed to seeing Joe Mauer make spectacular defensive plays behind the plate. But center fielder Denard Span said that Mauer's brilliant catch in the ninth inning of Thursday's 9-8 loss to the Royals might rank among the reigning MVP's best.
With one out in the ninth, Mitch Maier popped up a ball behind home plate. It appeared that it would be just another foul ball into the stands as Mauer threw his mask off and rushed to the wall.
But as his body was stopped by the netting there, Mauer reached his left arm around to the other side and snow-coned the popup in his glove to record the out.
"That's the best one I've ever seen," Span said. "I couldn't see close up, but I could see what he did. My first reaction was I froze, and my mouth was wide open, but I had to close it quick because the gnats are bad out there [in center field], and I said, 'Wow.' When I finally saw the replay, I was able to appreciate it even more. It made it look even more difficult and more impressive."
For Maier, who caught a hard-hit ball by Mauer at the wall in center field in the third inning, it was a catch that he deemed "payback."
"That was an unbelievable play," Maier said. "All I saw was the fan standing up to catch it, and [Mauer] reaches around the net. It was an unbelievable play -- I thought I fouled it off and had a chance to live another day, but he made a great play. That's what he's paid to do."
The sellout crowd of 39,022 immediately cheered on the hometown hero on his spectacular catch.
"That was pretty neat. I imagine we'll see that one on TV later tonight," Royals manager Ned Yost said.
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. Jocelyn Syrstad is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.