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Twins' Mauer nursing slim lead in AL batting race

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.

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."