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Ryan's Twins epitomize baseball synergy

Minnesota doesn't excel in any major statistical categories, but club plays winning ball @TracyRingolsby

On an afternoon at Coors Field three years ago, the discussion turned to outfielder Michael Cuddyer and the professionalism he brought to a clubhouse.

"He's a Terry Ryan Twin," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said.

On an afternoon at Coors Field three years ago, the discussion turned to outfielder Michael Cuddyer and the professionalism he brought to a clubhouse.

"He's a Terry Ryan Twin," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said.

Translation: It's all about the team in the world of Terry Ryan, and that translates to the players who have come up in the Minnesota Twins' system since Ryan has been a general manager.

"That's awful kind of him to have said," said Ryan. "I don't know Don Mattingly personally, but I am humbled to hear that."

Ryan may be humbled, but it's a tribute he has earned.

Ryan oversaw the building of a big league team that made six postseason appearances in a nine-year stretch earlier in this century. Then after stepping away from his role as the Twins' general manager for four years, he returned to that front-office role following the 2011 season.

And look at Minnesota now.

While the Mets, Cubs, Astros and Rangers have grabbed the headlines all summer, the Twins have been every bit as much of a surprise team in the world of postseason contenders -- even if they have seemingly gone unnoticed.

But then these are Terry Ryan Twins. They don't scream for attention. They just play the game well as a team, and they win. They woke up Wednesday morning just 1 1/2 games back of the Astros in the battle for the second American League Wild Card spot, and four games behind the AL Wild Card-leading Yankees.

They may be a surprise, but they know where they are. The Twins see the standings, and they don't mind admitting that they do plenty of scoreboard watching.

"I know it's politically correct to say you aren't looking, but I've been checking since April," said Torii Hunter, an original Terry Ryan Twin who, after spending time with the Angels and Tigers, returned this past offseason to provide a stabilizing influence on the new guys in town. "I can't hide it."

Video: DET@MIN: Hunter discusses his health, Twins' season

And it is getting to that point in the season where Minnesota is no longer hidden to the rest of the baseball world.

"There's no logical explanation for it," said longtime Minneapolis columnist Patrick Reusse.

Ryan doesn't disagree. But there is a legitimate explanation.

These are Terry Ryan Twins.

It's also a franchise that is coming off four consecutive 90-loss seasons in which it finished in last place three times and fourth once. The Twins were a combined 101 games out of first place in the AL Central. And it only took them six games to find themselves back in last place in the AL Central basement this year. However, Minnesota vacated the basement on April 25, and it hasn't been back since.

"The last four years were a tough grind," Ryan said. "We'd get into August and were out of it. Then we started poorly this year, and I think people thought, 'Here we go again.'"

These Twins, however, have given their fans something much more enjoyable to think about -- a postseason possibility.

Oh, it hasn't been easy to get where they are. In mid-August, they began a stretch of 19 out of 25 games on the road by being swept in a three-game series at Yankee Stadium. They fell two games below .500 (59-61).

"We have had our share of problems going into Yankee Stadium -- old and new," said Ryan. "That was not a good experience."

But then …

They went into Wednesday night having won 16 of 24 games since the visit to New York, including 15 of the final 22 games during that road-heavy stretch of the schedule.

Video: Twins get hot to stay in Wild Card pursuit

"We responded to the challenge," said Ryan. "We found ways to win games instead of ways to lose games."

First-year manager Paul Molitor has been a major part of that success. He was a Hall of Fame player, but he has a blue-collar work ethic as a manager.

"He always had a way about himself," said Ryan. "He is confident, but not arrogant. He delegates well. He has tremendous respect for the players and how hard the game is."

As important as anything is that Molitor, a native of St. Paul, has been involved in the Twins organization as a player, instructor or evaluator for 20 years.

"He had an awareness and knowledge of our players," said Ryan. "He had worked in the media and understands that part of the game. He knew the community and the tradition of the Twins -- all the things except manage a game, he had done."

Now, Molitor has managed 144 regular-season games, and there's little to complain about with what has happened with Minnesota under his guidance. The Twins are, after all, very much alive in the postseason hunt.

And that's with a pitching staff that, despite calling pitcher-friendly Target Field home, ranks 11th in the AL with a 4.11 ERA, 15th with 907 strikeouts, 14th with 362 walks and 14th with a .271 batting average allowed. The rotation is seventh in the AL with a 4.17 ERA, and the bullpen ranks 10th at 3.99.

Kyle Gibson and Phil Hughes lead the team with 10 victories, which ties them for 25th in AL. Gibson's 3.71 ERA ranks 20th in the AL, and his is the only ERA in Minnesota's rotation below 4.00.

And that's with an offense that ranks 12th in the AL in average (.249) and OPS (.706), 11th in home runs (138) and stolen bases (62), and eighth in runs scored (624).

Joe Mauer leads the Twins with a .271 average, which ranks 34th in the AL. Brian Dozier leads the team with 27 homers, which is tied for 14th in the league, and Trevor Plouffe is tied for 15th in the AL with 79 RBIs, also top on the team.

It doesn't add up. It doesn't need to.

These are, after all, Terry Ryan Twins.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for

Minnesota Twins