Twins' Mauer nursing slim lead in AL batting race

Updated: October 1, 2006, 12:20 AM ET
Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota's Joe Mauer arrived at the final day of the regular season with a slim lead and a chance to become the first AL catcher to win a batting title.

Minnesota Twins

139 13 84 85 .429 .346

Mauer got Saturday off and took his league-leading .346 average into Sunday's game, just one point ahead of New York's Derek Jeter, who went 3-for-3 to raise his average to .345. Yankees teammate Robinson Cano was at .341.

For a time, there was a question whether Mauer would play at all on Sunday. But Detroit's loss to Kansas City Saturday night gave the Twins another chance to clinch the division title Sunday. That assured Mauer a place in the starting lineup.

In his typical nonchalant manner, Mauer claimed he hasn't been thinking much about the batting race and offered a diplomatic answer on whether he would want to play Sunday if only statistics were on the line.

"I'd like to go out there if it's that close and maybe try to go for it," Mauer said, "but another day off would be good, too."

The Twins will send Carlos Silva to the mound Sunday because the title race is still alive. Had Detroit won, rookie Scott Baker would have started.

Gardenhire sidestepped the question about who will take the fourth spot in the rotation for the playoffs. Johan Santana and Boof Bonser will start the first two games, and Brad Radke, barring a sudden change for the worse in the condition of his beat-up right shoulder, will likely be the third starter.

Despite getting roughed up in Saturday's outing, Garza -- who began the year in Class A -- didn't express concern about jeopardizing his chance to pitch in the postseason.

"It just means I got it out of my system," he said. "It's easier to bounce back from an outing like this than try to capitalize on a great outing."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press