DETROIT -- Coupling his numbers since suffering his career-altering concussion in 2013 with an April that saw him hit .225 with four extra-base hits, it was fair to wonder how much Joe Mauer would contribute offensively this year.
But all Mauer has done since early May is hit, as he's in the midst of an impressive rebirth that has him looking like the Mauer of old -- a six-time All-Star and former American League MVP. Mauer came up huge in a critical 12-1 win over the Tigers on Thursday, going 3-for-4 with a two-run double and a walk. It put the Twins in strong position to make the postseason for the first time since 2010, leading the Angels by 2 1/2 games for the second AL Wild Card spot with nine games remaining.
Mauer has hit .327/.409/.456 since May 1, and .404/.447/.551 over his last 40 games to improve his overall line to .311/.388/.427 in 134 games, while providing Gold Glove-caliber defense at first base. Mauer is sixth in the AL in batting average and third in on-base percentage.
"I've been feeling good and consistent," Mauer said. "I haven't been trying to do too much. Sometimes you get into funks where you try to do more than what the pitch or situation presents. I think I've done a good job of having good at-bats and taking what they're giving me."
Mauer helped spark a three-run rally with a leadoff single in the fourth before breaking the game open with his two-run double to left in the sixth. It was the 400th double of his career, and he scored on Jorge Polanco's single, giving him 950 runs to tie him with Hall of Famer Rod Carew for third on the all-time Twins list. He's second behind fellow Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett (414) on Minnesota's doubles list.
"He leads with his demeanor, his play and his consistency," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "Getting his 400th double and tying Rod Carew on the runs list are special accomplishments. He never points the finger at myself in terms of where the credit goes. He's a pleasure to manage."
Mauer has also tortured the Tigers this year, going 11-for-24 with 12 RBIs in seven games at Comerica Park, and is a career .299 hitter in Detroit.
"He's kind of a throwback, Tony Gwynn style," Ausmus said. "Has a little more power than Tony, but similar style of hitter."
With Mauer's resurgence, the Twins are in prime position to make the postseason for the fourth time in Mauer's career, but he cautioned it's too early to look ahead with nine games to go.
"We're all human and see what other teams are doing," Mauer said. "We've put ourselves in good position. We just need to worry about the game at hand, and we'll be fine. We've put ourselves in the driver's position, but we still have to work to do."