The strangest thing, Joe Mauer said, wasn’t that he was in a 1-for-23 slump, or that he hadn’t had an extra-base hit since Sept. 1. Or that he got behind in the count and was just trying to avoid striking out, as he had in his last at-bat.
No, the weirdest part, after crushing a full-count fastball onto the center-field berm Tuesday night, his fifth career grand slam and the critical hit in the Twins’ 10-5 victory over the Yankees, was that he didn’t really hear the Target Field crowd roar with excitement.
“You’re rounding the bases, and you know it’s loud, but you don’t hear anything,” Mauer said after blasting his sixth home run of the season. “It’s a pretty cool feeling. And to see the guys excited when you round third, and the fans jumping up and down — it’s pretty cool.”
Mauer capped off the moment with a curtain call to acknowledge those cheers, the second time in a month he’s tipped his cap after a dramatic home run. Bench coach Derek Shelton told him “You better get out there,” Mauer said, “so it was kind of fun. You could tell the crowd was going crazy, but you don’t really hear it. You’re in that moment, I guess.”
The Twins don’t get many of those moments against the Yankees. In fact, Tuesday’s victory stopped a nine-game losing streak to New York, counting their playoff meeting last October, and even with the 10-1 lead that Mauer’s fifth-inning slam gave them, the Yankees made it difficult. In the very next inning, Kohl Stewart gave up a single and two walks to load the bases, and when Trevor May relieved him, Didi Gregorius matched Mauer’s slam with one of his own.
But May, Taylor Rogers and Trevor Hildenberger didn’t give up another hit after that, retiring the last 11 Yankees batters in a row to seal the Twins’ victory — and allow Mauer and his fans to savor another memorable moment in a career full of them.
“He’s just got that ability to not let emotions or moments overtake his ability to perform,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “When you can trust yourself, trust that you’re still going to recognize, have a plan, not be afraid to go deep in counts — all those things, he’s been marvelous at for a long, long time.”
The Twins already had scored six runs by then. They entered the fifth inning up 4-1, getting one run on a passed ball, two on a Jake Cave single vs. his former teammates and a fourth on a Jorge Polanco double.
They made it 6-1 as Yankees reliever Jonathan Loaisiga walked three batters and gave up two singles in the fifth. With the bases loaded, Tommy Kahnle was summoned to face Mauer, and quickly got ahead 1-2.
“I was just trying to get something up in the strike zone, where I could handle it and maybe get something to the outfield,” Mauer said.
He worked the count to 3-2, and then pounced on a fastball over the heart of the plate.
“I just tried to take deep breaths, try to slow the heart rate down a little bit,” Mauer said. “That’s about all I’ve got right there.”