Joe Mauer was out of the lineup yesterday after starting 17 straight games, so instead of collecting multiple hits he just came off the bench with a two-run homer against Jonathan Papelbon that pulled the Twins to within one run in the ninth inning.
Mauer has already surpassed last season's homer total in 533 fewer plate appearances and is just two long balls shy of tying his career-high of 13 from 2006. He's now hitting .444 with a .530 on-base percentage and .913 slugging percentage, which is just silly. He could go into a 0-for-39 slump and still be hitting .300.
Lost in Mauer's ridiculousness is that Justin Morneau is batting .341/.422/.653 with 13 homers, 13 doubles, 24 walks, 41 RBIs, and 37 runs in 46 games. He's on pace to set new career-highs in essentially every important category and leads AL in OPS (at least until Mauer gets enough plate appearances to qualify).
Morneau has undeservedly overshadowed Mauer in the past, winning the MVP in 2006 and then finishing second last year despite being just the second-best player on his own team in both instances, so it's ironic that he's now being overlooked during perhaps the best run of his career.
Not only are the Twins getting huge production from Mauer and Morneau, they also have Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer among the league's top 20 in OPS. Despite that they rank just seventh among AL teams in runs per game. How? Minnesota ranks dead last in OPS from second basemen at .475 and second-to-last in OPS from shortstops at .577.
The 92 middle-infield starts have been divided among Nick Punto (38), Alexi Casilla (21), Brendan Harris (18), and Matt Tolbert (15), who've combined to hit .195/.254/.251 over 386 plate appearances in those games. For comparison, National League pitchers have hit .138/.189/.170 this season.