The Minnesota Twins caught everyone off-guard when Logan Morrison, who was supposed to be taking a rest day, came to the plate to bat for Joe Mauer in the fifth inning. The “Junior PA Announcer” had already broadcast Mauer’s name on the big screen, and with an early five-run deficit and two outs already in the inning, the Twins needed someone to get on base to try and mount a comeback in what would end up being an 8-3 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers.
“He’d been bothered a little bit by some stiffness going back to the Anaheim play,” said manager Paul Molitor, referring to Joe Mauer’s diving attempt at a foul ball against the Angels in Los Angeles last Friday.
“That one where he was kind of looking back and tried to dive for that ball down the right field line,” Molitor clarified. “I just think he got jarred pretty good. He had some stiffness he’s been trying to play through and tonight it kind of caught up with him.”
“It all happened on a foul ball in Anaheim,” echoed Mauer after the game. “I landed pretty hard and had some whiplash. Just been coming in and getting treatment and trying to get out there every day. But today I got out there and it started to stiffen up and get a little worse.
“I talked to the trainers and coaches and they thought it was best if I got out of there before it got any worse.”
Mauer says that the left side feels worse, but he is experiencing pain in the whole back of his neck and has been getting treatment on it. He said he is day-to-day, and Molitor said that he is not considering the disabled list right now.
“I’d like to be in the lineup tomorrow to be honest,” said Mauer. “It might take a day or two. Nothing more than that. I just think I need to let it calm down.”
“He tried to play through it the best that he can and then tonight it just seemed to kind of lock up on him,” said Molitor. “We got in a situation where our first two hitters went down on three pitches, and I was made aware right before we started our offense that particular inning.
“We only had three pitches to get LoMo out of the cage and get him ready so it might have looked a little peculiar. That’s the way it worked out.”
Kyle Gibson entered the game with a 3.43 ERA and looking for his second win of what has been a bounce-back season for him. He left with a 3.96 ERA after giving up five earned runs on eight hits, including home runs to Ji-Man Choi in the second and Jesus Aguilar in the fourth.
Gibson had only given up two home runs, total, entering this game.
“Little frustrating,” said Gibson. “Had command going in and out. But really a couple of walks and here and there and the two home-run pitches and it’s a completely different outing.
“Didn’t execute the 2-0 pitch to Choi and left it middle and the two-strike pitch to Aguilar, trying to go in more and just left it on the black and up in the nitro zone.”
The Milwaukee hitters did a good job laying off of two-strike pitches, and Gibson said he shook off catcher Bobby Wilson too often.
“I have to go back and look at all the two-strike pitches they laid off of. They laid off a couple good ones,” he said. “Some just didn’t have enough plate. You probably saw a little frustration on some of the sliders, glove side. When they don’t start on the plate they are not going to swing at it.
“Too many non-competitive pitches where I just didn’t listen to Bobby really,” he added. “Shook him off way too much tonight. Whether I overthought myself or whatever it was, he was calling a good game and it was nothing against him, really. Most of the pitches I got beat on I was shaking. Just maybe overthinking a little too much. Then the last couple innings when I started saying yes and going with the game plan we had, starting going a little smoother and felt a lot better.”
It wasn’t all bad for the Twins. Max Kepler went 2-for-2 with a double and a homer, and is hitting .343 (12-for-35) with five doubles and three home runs off of lefties this season. Eduardo Escobar went 3-for-4, and Eddie Rosario was 1-for-4 with a double, and now has recorded a hit in all but three games since May 1.
“I told him after the homer he had four good at-bats tonight and I thought Rosey did too,” said Molitor, relaying a conversation he had with Kepler. “They stayed in there and did a nice job. Kep just missed three homers. The first one missed by a couple inches and he pulled that one foul that he hit fairly well.
“He’s been really making progress on his ability to hit lefties. I think he kind of took that as a mission upon himself and so far he’s done well.”
But on a night when news of Miguel Sano and Trevor May doing well in their rehab stints was released before the game with the Twins closing in on .500, Gibson regressed and Mauer left with what appears to be a lingering injury.