By Tyger Allen
All eyes were on Twins first baseman Joe Mauer on Friday night as he took the leadoff spot in the bottom of the first inning. The St. Paul native was one double away from taking sole possession of third place on the all-time doubles leader in Twins history. Mauer made contact on a Nathan Eovaldi pitch. The ball curved in the air on its way down the left field line and landed fair.
Mauer took a wide turn around first base. The collective sound of cheering Twins fans increased inside Target Field – they were about to see history unfold. It wasn’t until Mauer chopped his feet to slow his run and retreat to first that fans realized he wouldn’t be breaking the record this at bat.
Twins fans would have to wait at least one more game before seeing Mauer’s next double, as he finished with a single, a walk and a home run.
“The quality of the bat has never changed. He’s got a knack for being able to see long enough to take those [pitches],” said Molitor.
The Mauer single was the start of the Twins success that inning. Eddie Rosario matched the leadoff hitter with a single of his own before Jorge Polanco hit an RBI triple to give the home team a two-run lead. Three consecutive singles pushed in two more runs for the Twins, giving them a 4-0 lead after one inning.
It was during Mauer’s third at bat that he waited four pitches before crushing a 416ft home run to center field for his third of the season.
Three more runs were added on the Twins side and Eovaldi ended his night with 2.2 innings pitched and eight earned runs.
Down seven runs, the Rays used the fourth and fifth innings to close the gap. After a Jake Bauers home run was reviewed and called a double in the fourth, the Rays piled on runners and eventually punched in their run. In the fifth, a three-run shot made the score 8-5 before they tacked on one more at the end of the inning.
The Rays inched closer in the sixth as Adeiny Hechavarria touched three bases on a Matt Duffy single to make the score 8-7 Minnesota.
In the bottom of the inning, Dozier earned the Twins first run since the third inning on a single from Eduardo Escobar. Later in the inning, Robbie Grossman hit a double to knock in Escobar, but got caught trying to take third. The RBI double was enough to extend the Twins lead to three.
Right-handed pitcher Trevor Hildenberger came on in the seventh and retired the side in order. The side-armed reliever finished his night with one inning pitched and three strikeouts.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Twins came out fast with an off-the-wall triple by Jake Cave, who was shy of hitting the cycle by a home run.
With his last chance to break the record this game, Mauer notched a sacrifice fly to center field that brought in Cave, who tagged up and brought in the Twins 11th run.
The Twins avoided blowing a seven-run lead to the Rays and are now only 7.5 games behind division-leading Cleveland. As for Mauer, he has two more games at home to take third place before leaving for a 10-game road trip.