Found May 15, 2012 on Fox Sports North:
Twins_vs_tigers_0731
MINNEAPOLIS Joe Mauer is a former MVP and a three-time batting champion, but the Twins catcher is currently slumping. After going 0-for-3 on Tuesday in Minnesota's loss to Cleveland, Mauer is now batting .270 this season. He has just eight hits in 46 at-bats (.174) this month three doubles and two RBI although he has drawn 12 walks during that stretch. All of that has come after Mauer took a foul ball off his knee while catching in a game against Kansas City on April 29. Mauer had the following day off in Los Angeles but returned to the lineup for the second game of the series against the Angels. Yet Mauer was clear after Tuesday's game when asked if the foul ball off his knee has been a possible explanation for his recent skid. "I don't want to say that's a problem," Mauer said of his knee. "Obviously I've been a little beat up here, but just struggling at the plate and trying to get back to where I was. Nothing's injured. It's just the day in and day out of playing ball. I'm just in a little funk right now and just trying to get out." The positive for Mauer is that he's stayed relatively healthy this year, something he wasn't able to do last season. He played in just 82 games in 2011 due to bilateral leg weakness early in the year and pneumonia that shut him down late in the season. Including Tuesday, though, he's now played in 35 of 36 games for the Twins."I don't like to sit on the bench. I did enough of that last year," Mauer said. "I'm just trying to stay on the field and try and get out there as much as I can."Still, Mauer's swing is admittedly not where he'd like it to be. According to PitchFx data, 58.7 percent of Mauer's batted balls this season have been grounders (prior to Tuesday's game). That's easily the highest rate of his nine-year career and is up from his previous high of 55.4 percent just last year.Mauer, a left-handed batter, has had a tendency to roll over pitches this season and hit grounders to the right side of the infield. The majority of his outs in May, according to a PitchFx spray chart, have been grounders to the right side or fly balls to left field.It was the case again Tuesday, as he grounded out to second base in the first inning, first base in the sixth inning and the shortstop (who was playing up the middle) in the eighth inning.After Tuesday's game, Mauer was asked if his timing was where he'd like it to be at this juncture in the season."No," he said. "I think that'd be pretty obvious I'm not feeling too great at the plate."Then again, none of the Twins' hitters felt very good at the plate Tuesday against Indians starter Derek Lowe, who pitched a complete-game shutout. Minnesota hit into four double plays against Lowe, who threw 127 sinkers 115 of which were sinkers, according to PitchFx."Derek Lowe was really tough," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said after the game. "We hit some balls on the button, but they were at them. They made some nice plays. That's what a sinkerballer does. He worked ahead in the count for the most part and got ground balls."With four more on Tuesday, the Twins have now hit into 38 ground balls in 36 games this season, second-most in baseball behind the Orioles' 41. Tuesday was the first time since April 22, 2010 also against Cleveland that Minnesota hit into four double plays. Three other times this season, the Twins have grounded into three double plays. Mauer has hit into a team-high seven double plays this season. In 82 games last year, he hit into just nine.The Twins, now 10-26 on the season heading into their upcoming three-city road trip, need Mauer to get back on track. He'll have some protection in the lineup starting Wednesday when Justin Morneau returns from the disabled list to hit behind Mauer in the batting order.But Minnesota is digging a deeper hole, now 16 games under .500 and 10 games back of first-place Cleveland. To get out of their current rut, the Twins will need the M&M Boys to start producing."It's a long season. We've got a long way to go," Mauer said. "We've had some tough luck here the last week or so, last couple weeks. You've got to try to stay positive or this game will keep beating you down."Follow Tyler Mason on Twitter
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