MINNEAPOLIS -- In his 14-year career, Joe Mauer has won an American League MVP Award, five Silver Slugger Awards, three Gold Glove Awards and has been named an All-Star six times. But before Friday night, he had never hit a walk-off homer in any of the 1,615 games he had
MINNEAPOLIS -- In his 14-year career, Joe Mauer has won an American League MVP Award, five Silver Slugger Awards, three Gold Glove Awards and has been named an All-Star six times. But before Friday night, he had never hit a walk-off homer in any of the 1,615 games he had played.
That changed against the Red Sox, as Mauer smacked a walk-off homer to lift the Twins to a 4-3 win after closer Brandon Kintzler couldn't hold a two-run lead in the ninth. The solo shot off reliever Matt Barnes was Mauer's third career walk-off hit, but his first homer.
"You're happy for Joe," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "He's obviously got quite the resume, and that's a nice one to add. We haven't had a lot of wins like that in a while, especially after we lost the lead there in the ninth. There was great energy in the park."
Despite falling behind 1-2 in the count after a pair of breaking balls from Barnes, Mauer figured a fastball was coming and jumped all over a 95-mph fastball above the strike zone, depositing it into the left-field seats. It left the bat at 102.4 mph and went a projected 404 feet, per Statcast™.
"It took me 14 years to do it," Mauer said with a grin. "It was a great atmosphere tonight. It was a good ballgame and the crowd was into it. To finish it like that, it was pretty fun."
Mauer showed rare emotion when rounding the bases, pumping his fist and letting out a "Yeah," as he rounded first. Mauer is off to a slow start this year, hitting .242/.310/.352 despite a dramatic increase in his contact percentage, but he was finally rewarded with his second homer of the year.
"I knew it had a chance," Mauer said. "I was just hoping it would go over, and it did."
Barnes said he was shocked Mauer ripped the fastball above the letters over the fence, as he executed the pitch where he wanted it.
"When a guy's been in the league as long as he has, you tip your cap," Barnes said. "That was the exact pitch we were trying to locate, exact pitch we were trying to throw. Baseball's a funny game, and that happens sometimes."
Mauer's teammates have stood behind him during his early-season struggles, and they were there to celebrate with him as he crossed home, especially third baseman Miguel Sano, who lifted the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Mauer up as he scored the winning run.
"It was the excitement," Sano said. "When I first picked him up, he wasn't heavy. But then after a little while, he was heavy. It was a beautiful game to come back and win."
The win also showed resolve from the Twins after losing their two-run lead in the ninth, which is something that wasn't lost on Mauer.
"We've done that a lot this year," Mauer said. "When things don't go our way, we kept fighting. We kinda stress that here, especially with our young guys. Anything can happen at the ballpark."
Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter **@RhettBollinger** and listen to his podcast.