“Clutch Norris” leads A’s three-headed catching monster

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OAKLAND — There is one lone sticker on the nameplates in the A’s locker room. It boasts the words “Clutch Norris” above Derek Norris’ stall.

Never have the words been more true than Tuesday night when the catcher came off the bench in the sixth inning and collected the team’s final five RBI over two at-bats, including the game winner.

He became the 21st player and fourth Athletic in MLB history to enter the game as a substitute and collect at least five RBI, joining fellow A’s Mickey Tettleton, Erubiel Durazo (2004) and Seth Smith (2012) on the short list.

“That doesn’t really happen too often,” Norris acknowledged after his fourth career pinch-hit home run. “Never had a five-RBI game off the bench.”

But Norris was only one of three catchers to contribute in the A’s 10-6 win over Yu Darvish and the rival Rangers.

[RECAP: A’s 10, Rangers 6]

Norris, Stephen Vogt and John Jaso combined to go 7-for-8 with seven RBI and three runs in support of winning pitcher Tommy Milone.

“It’s a lot of fun right now,” Milone said after extending his career high-tying winning streak to five games. “Especially when they’re all in the lineup together, it seems like they are all producing.”

“It’s awesome,” said Vogt. “It’s a three-headed … catching … situation.”

It sounded like he wanted to call the catching trio a “three-headed monster” and resisted, but it wouldn’t have been an overstatement.

“We have three guys that could start in a number of places,” Melvin said. “It’s a luxury.”

Still, after pinning Darvish with his eighth loss in 10 starts against Oakland, the A’s are not ready to claim they’ve figured him out.

“We’re fortunate,” Melvin said after the game. “As far as that quality a pitcher that you end up having success against, I’d have to think for a while.”

Darvish, who can take solace in reaching the 600-strikeout milestone in the first inning, is now 0-2 with a 7.02 ERA in three starts against the A’s this year. He’s lost eight of 10 career starts against Oakland.

“I don’t know what it is about Darvish’s style that just fits into our hitting pattern,” Norris said. “One through nine, that guy was just grinding. Every guy that came up, it was a battle.

“I can only imagine that it can be a little frustrating. Sometimes good pitchers just have that one kryptonite team.”

The sticker above Norris’ locker might as well have have read “Superman” on Tuesday.

Twins to retire Joe Mauer’s No. 7

AP Photo/Jim Mone
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Twins senior director of communications Dustin Morse announced that the Twins will honor former C/1B Joe Mauer by retiring his uniform number 7. Mauer announced his retirement from baseball on November 9.

Mauer will join Harmon Killebrew (No. 3), Tony Oliva (No. 6), Tom Kelly (No. 10), Kent Hrbek (No. 14), Rod Carew (No. 29), Kirby Pucket (No. 34), and Bert Blyleven (No. 28) as Twins to have their numbers retired.

Mauer, 35, spent 15 seasons in the majors, all with the Twins. He posted a career .306/.388/.439 triple-slash line with 143 home runs and 923 RBI. He won the AL MVP Award in 2009, won the batting title three times, earned three Gold Gloves and five Silver Sluggers, and made the AL All-Star team six times. Sadly, his career was limited due to injuries, including a concussion that caused him to move from catcher to first base.

Five years from now, Mauer will appear on the Hall of Fame ballot. There will certainly be some arguments for and against his candidacy. He retired with 55.1 career Wins Above Replacement, according to Baseball Reference, which definitely puts him in the conversation. But, as always, there’s never a consensus.