Seven RBI enough for Joe Mauer as Twins win 19-1

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Joe Mauer turned in his fourth career five-hit game and drove in a personal-best seven runs as the Twins steamrolled the Royals 19-1 on Monday night.
The reigning AL MVP was 5-for-5 with a three-run homer and a double before being removed for a pinch-hitter with a runner on in the eighth. Manager Ron Gardenhire offered him the chance to hit and go for a 6-for-6 night, but Mauer opted out. Drew Butera replaced him and promptly lined into a double play.
Mauer topped his previous high of six RBI, which he established in a 20-1 win over the White Sox on May 21, 2009.
Also notable from the game was that Danny Valencia, who didn’t have a homer in the majors or minors this season, went 4-for-4 with a grand slam and a walk. He entered the game with four extra-base hits — all doubles — and five RBI in 81 at-bats for the Twins.
He’s the first Twin ever to hit a grand slam for his first homer.
The Royals got their lone run on a Wilson Betemit double in the ninth to narrowly avoid their worst shutout loss ever. It wouldn’t have been the biggest margin of victory this season either way, though. The Brewers beat the Pirates 20-0 back on April 22.
The 18-run deficit was the Royals’ biggest since they lost to the A’s 21-3 on June 18, 2000.

James Paxton will “nerd out big-time” to stay healthy next year

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To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.

So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”

When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.

Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.