Mauer barrels up for three hits to spark Twins

Mauer barrels up for three hits to spark Twins

SEATTLE -- Prior to Saturday's game against the Mariners, Twins manager Paul Molitor entertained the thought of someday using Joe Mauer in the leadoff spot. After watching Mauer go 3-for-5 with a single, double and a go-ahead two-run triple in the 11th inning of Sunday's 4-2 win in the rubber game, those plans might be on permanent hold.

Such is life with a former American League MVP and batting champion who is still good enough to be the anchor of an offense when he's healthy and swinging the bat well.

Even when Mauer made outs on Sunday, they were loud outs. He lined out to left field in the fifth inning and lined out to center in the seventh. He was walked intentionally in the ninth in his other plate appearance.

"Five times on the barrel," Molitor said. "We talk about how to use Joe the best way, and right now he's getting hits with men in scoring position. We're glad he's at where he's at, and he certainly came through for us in big-time fashion today."

Mauer's RBI double

Mauer entered the game with a .274 average, but he was at .299 by the end of the long day. His RBI double in the third inning off Mariners lefty starter Roenis Elias was the 312th of his career, tying him for third on the Twins' all-time list with Kent Hrbek.

"Today I felt pretty good," Mauer said. "I felt good seeing the ball, especially off of lefties today, and hopefully I keep it going."

But the triple was Sunday's masterpiece. The score was tied at 2, there were runners on first and second with two out, and the bullpens were deep into a battle that seemed like it might not end anytime soon. Mauer swung at a pitch by lefty Tyler Olson and the ball flared out to right-center. For a moment, it looked as if Mariners right fielder Nelson Cruz might have a play on it, but it got by Cruz and made it all the way to the wall while Mauer youthfully scampered around the bases.

"I like being in those situations," Mauer said. "It's always nice to get those opportunities and then obviously to capitalize. Two guys getting on before me creates that situation, and I was able to throw one in the gap there and score a couple of runs. You look forward to those situations and opportunities, and I'm glad I didn't miss it today."

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.