MINNEAPOLIS — The hits just keep on coming for Joe Mauer, and now the resurgent Minnesota Twins star is right in Miguel Cabrera's rearview mirror.
Mauer had three hits and an RBI to raise his batting average to .326 as he threatens Cabrera's run for the Triple Crown and the Twins rallied to beat the New York Yankees 5-4 on Tuesday night.
Mauer's last single, a rocket to right field off of normally reliable lefty Boone Logan, scored a run to cap the Twins' four-run seventh inning. Cabrera, the Tigers slugger, went 0 for 3 on Tuesday to drop to .329 with one week to go.
A fourth AL batting crown is within reach, and this one would likely be even more special than the rest since Mauer has bounced back from an injury plagued 2011 that caused him to fall out of favor with some Twins fans.
"Oh absolutely, don't get me wrong with that. You know, I'd love to win," Mauer said. "But obviously if you start thinking about that, you start trying and that's when it doesn't happen for you."
The Twins trailed 3-1 going into the seventh, with Phil Hughes (16-13) rolling through the lineup and regaining command of his changeup and fastball that had eluded him of late. But he left with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh, with Yankees manager Joe Girardi opting to go with reliable lefty Boone Logan against a string of four straight left-handers due up for the Twins.
Logan let one run score on a wild pitch before giving up a two-run double to Denard Span that put the Twins in front for good.
Mauer followed with his third single of the game, and the Twins held on to keep the Orioles, who lost to Toronto earlier on Tuesday, 1½ games back of New York in the AL East.
"As I've said all along, people get frustrated with Joe if he's hitting just barely over .300," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "This guy, he's totally incredible. He can flat out hit. It's amazing to see. He sets such a high standard that when he gets down there close to .300, people think he's struggling. That's a way you make a lot of money in this game, just hitting .300. He goes way above that."
Mauer also excelled behind the plate, throwing out two base stealers to complete strike-em-out, throw-em-out double plays in the third and fourth innings.
"It's always nice to beat those guys," Mauer said. "But you know, it's a playoff-like atmosphere. Got another team that's in in the hunt, and it's good to get a win like that tonight."
Nick Swisher homered for the third straight game, Martin also went deep and Andruw Jones hit a pinch-hit solo shot off of closer Glen Perkins in the ninth inning for the Yankees. But Perkins struck out Jayson Nix for his 15th save.
Span said he was going to send Orioles center fielder and buddy Adam Jones a tweet to say "You're welcome."
"I saw they lost tonight, and we were able to get a win to kind of help them out a little bit," Span said. "So we'll see. We'll see. If we can beat CC (Sabathia) tomorrow, maybe I'll text him and see if he'll buy me dinner next spring training."
Derek Jeter extended his hitting streak to 19 games with a single in the first inning and Robinson Cano went 3 for 3 with a walk for the Yankees, who could have opened their largest division lead since Sept. 1.
Esmerling Vasquez gave up two runs on seven hits with five strikeouts in six innings for the Twins.
NOTES: Perkins has converted 11 straight saves. ... On Monday night, Curtis Granderson joined Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle and Jason Giambi as the only Yankees to hit 40-plus HRs in back-to-back seasons. "Especially with the number of guys that have played for the Yankees and put the pinstripes on, at least for one sentence I get to get mentioned with those guys," Granderson said. "That's pretty cool." ... Twins OF Josh Willingham did not play because of a strained left shoulder. He's listed as day-to-day. ... The Twins send RHP Samuel Deduno (6-5, 4.54) to the mound on Wednesday for the finale against LHP CC Sabathia (13-6, 3.47).
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