Joe Mauer closes batting title gap on Miguel Cabrera with MLB-leading 22nd three-hit game

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For a while it looked like Miguel Cabrera’s biggest hurdle in claiming the triple crown would be topping Josh Hamilton in homers, but Joe Mauer has been on fire this month to close the gap in the batting average race.

Mauer had his MLB-leading 22nd three-hit game of the season last night and is now hitting .418 this month, bringing his overall batting average up to .326 compared to .329 for Cabrera.

Here are the MLB leaders in three-hit games:

Joe Mauer           22
Miguel Cabrera      21
Ryan Braun          18
Derek Jeter         18
Torii Hunter        18
Adrian Beltre       18
Andrew McCutchen    17
Michael Bourn       17

Everyone on that list is batting above .300 except for Bourn, who’s hitting just .274 but has come to the plate an MLB-high 690 times as the Braves’ leadoff man and did most of his damage in the first half.

As for Mauer, he’s already won batting average titles in 2006, 2008, and 2009 and his .324 career mark is second to only Albert Pujols at .325 among all active players. Mauer got off to a slow start following his injury wrecked 2011 season, but since carrying a .265 batting average on May 17 he’s hit .347 in 103 games.

Yasiel Puig was late to a workout on Monday, so Dave Roberts benched him

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Earlier, Craig wrote about how Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig is back in manager Dave Roberts’ doghouse once again. Puig didn’t slide into second base when he was caught stealing to end Saturday’s game, which irked Roberts.

Puig didn’t earn himself any brownie points on Monday as he was late to a team workout and was benched as a result, MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick reports. Roberts said, “That was a decision he made, not me.” Roberts added that he was disappointed in Puig, though he did note that the former All-Star’s behavior has been improved for most of the season.

Puig, 26, has had a solid season, batting .259/.339/.474 with 26 home runs, 70 RBI, 66 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 554 plate appearances. While he hasn’t provided value on the same level as Justin Turner or Corey Seager, he’s been a valuable part of the lineup which makes this drama all the more unfortunate with just a week and a half before the start of the NLDS.

MLB, MLBPA grant Pirates exemption for Jung Ho Kang to participate in Dominican Winter League

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Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the Pirates were granted an exemption by Major League Baseball and the players’ union which will allow infielder Jung Ho Kang to participate in the Dominican Winter League without being removed from the restricted list.

Kang, 30, has been denied a visa by the Department of State as a result of his third DUI in South Korea last September. Kang was also under investigation in 2015 for alleged sexual assault.

Kang is under contract through the end of 2018 and the Pirates have a club option for the 2019 season as well, so it makes sense they would try to get him into some type of baseball action ahead of next season. The infielder has hit .273/.355/.483 in 837 plate appearances across two seasons in the majors. As Brink notes, Kang has already arrived to the Dominican Republic and will work out with his team, Aguilas Cibaenas, ahead of the start of the season on October 20.