KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Joe Mauer has enough hits to lead the major leagues in batting average. Soon, he'll have enough plate appearances.
Mauer went 3-for-3 Wednesday in the Minnesota Twins' 5-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals, raising his average to .392. He's eight plate appearances short of the 3.1 per game needed to qualify for the batting race."If I have anything to do with it, he'll qualify," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "I don't mind writing his name in there. He'll get plenty of at-bats."With Michael Cuddyer hitting a long home run and Glen Perkins holding the Royals to one run, the Twins ended a 6-3 trip."It's nice to shake hands after a game on the road," said Mauer, who sandwiched two walks around three singles off Gil Meche (4-8)."I felt like I went in there knowing Meche," he said. "He's got great stuff. I was just trying to keep it simple, go up the middle, and it seemed to work. I felt a lot better. That's how it is, you feel pretty good heading into an off day."Perkins held the Royals to 10 hits in seven innings as the Twins improved to two games over .500 for the first time all year. Seven times earlier this season, they'd reached one game over only to fall back."We're there!" said Cuddyer, whose 398-foot home run gave the Twins a 1-0 lead in the second. "Hopefully, we can continue to win so we don't have to hear about it any more."Perkins (4-4) allowed one run for the second straight start. Joe Nathan got the final out for his 21st save in 23 opportunities, and his 32nd in 35 chances against Kansas City.Meche, whose "dead arm" the previous two starts had created concern among the Royals, gave up three runs -- two earned -- six hits and five walks in six inning. He immediately showed regained velocity, striking out Justin Morneau in the first inning with a 98 mph fastball."I was still throwing in the mid-90s," said Meche. "I tried to squeeze out that sixth inning and just couldn't get Mauer to finish the inning."Kansas City's Billy Butler was 4-for-4 with two singles and two doubles. He doubled home the Royals' run in the sixth."Obviously, I had a good day. But we just couldn't get the big hit we needed," Butler said. "But that's the way it's going right now."With two on and two outs in the third, Joe Crede hit a routine grounder to second baseman Alberto Callaspo, who let it scoot under his glove for his ninth error as Mauer scored.Mauer's RBI single put the Twins on top 3-0 in the sixth. The Twins added two in the eighth after reliever Robinson Tejada had struck out the first two batters. Denard Span and Matt Tolbert singled, and Mauer was walked intentionally. John Bale relieved and forced in runs with bases-loaded walks to Brian Buscher and Cuddyer.The Twins had three players get hurt, but none of the injuries was thought to be serious. Catcher Mike Redmond left in the fifth inning after getting hit on the forearm by a foul tip, and X-rays were negative. After the top of the seventh inning, shortstop Nick Punto came out with tightness in his lower back. Morneau, the first baseman, departed with tightness in the left groin."It should be good to go by Friday," Morneau said. "We've got a day off tomorrow. We didn't want to make it any worse. I felt like if there was a ball to my right, a play I've got to dive for, I could have made it a lot worse. So it was just better to come out."
SS Mike Aviles, the Royals' player of the year in 2008, will have elbow ligament-replacement surgery next week and be lost for about a year. ... C Miguel Olivo sat out after being suspended for one game by MLB for making contact with an umpire during an argument. ... Finishing 15-12 in June, the Twins had their first winning month of the season. ... The Royals have committed 59 errors, tied with Seattle for the league lead going into the Mariners' game Wednesday night at the Yankees. ... The Twins headed back to Minneapolis for a nine-game homestand against the Tigers, Yankees and White Sox.