AL MVP: Can Mauer beat the Bronx bullies?

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Zack Greinke proved that the little guys from small markets can get it done, correctly earning the AL Cy Young award when voters overlooked his relative lack of wins (16) and focused instead on his sheer dominance over the course of this season, giving him the award over big names like CC Sabathia, Felix Hernandez and Roy Halladay.

Now it’s Joe Mauer’s turn to find out if he can beat out the big-market superstars when the AL MVP award is announced Monday at 2 p.m. ET.

The Twins’ star catcher has got to be the favorite to win the award after hitting a career-high .365 this season to earn his third batting title in the last four seasons.

But he could face a stiff challenge from a pair of high-profile and championship-celebrating New York Yankees in Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter. Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers should also get some consideration, but is a long shot to take home the award.

Mauer fans can take some solace in Greinke winning the Cy Young. If the ace of a terrible Kansas City Royals team can come out on top in what can often be a popularity contest, then why not a Minnesota Twin who led his team to the playoffs?

More hope for Mauer: If this ESPN poll is any indication, he’ll take it easily.

In a poll of 22 of ESPN’s so-called experts, 20 selected Mauer, while anchor Steve Berthiaume chose Teixeira and broadcaster Jon Miller took Jeter.

Here are the key stats on the main candidates. Feel free to state your case below:

Joe Mauer: .365 avg., 28 HR, 96 RBI, 1.031 OPS
Mark Teixeira: .292 avg., 39 HR, 122 RBI
Derek Jeter: .334 avg., 18 HR, 107 runs, 30 SB
Miguel Cabrera: .324 avg., 34 HR, 103 RBI

Meanwhile, if you have some time while awaiting the balloting results, check out Joe Posnanski’s Least Valuable awards.

Follow me on Twitter at @bharks. For more baseball news, go to NBCSports.com.

Fernando Rodney gives up walk-off homer to Gary Sanchez

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The Fernando Rodney Experience hasn’t been a good one for the Twins thus far. The veteran closer served up three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to the Yankees on Thursday afternoon, erasing a 4-1 lead and blowing his third save in five opportunities.

In the ninth, Didi Gregorius reached on a throwing error by Miguel Sano. Giancarlo Stanton then singled, and Gary Sanchez followed up with a walk-off three-run home run.

Rodney, 41, now sports a 6.75 ERA on the year. He inked a one-year, $4.5 million contract with the Twins back in December. The club has an option for next year worth $4.25 million. If things keep going the way they’re going, the Twins aren’t going to want to pick up that option.

The Twins may even want to think about moving Ryan Pressly or Addison Reed into the closer’s role, even if just temporarily. Pressly has been terrific, tossing 13 scoreless innings with 18 strikeouts. Reed has a 2.25 ERA with 12 strikeouts in 12 innings.