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Twins' success a result of mental toughness

Resilient club bounces back from rough loss with solid all-around victory

MILWAUKEE -- There are valid reasons why the Minnesota Twins are in second place in the American League Central rather than fifth. One of those reasons was on display Saturday at Miller Park.

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The previous night, the Twins had suffered a truly discouraging defeat in a game in which they were down, 10-1, to the Brewers after just two innings. The Twins responded Saturday with a performance that was solid or better in all aspects, and they emerged with a 5-2 victory over the Brewers.

There were standout individual performances. Torii Hunter hit two solo home runs and started the decisive three-run rally in the fifth with a double. Eduardo Escobar finished that rally with a three-run homer. Brian Dozier made some stellar defensive plays at second base. Kyle Gibson provided a solid 6 2/3 innings, getting 13 ground-ball outs. The bullpen trio of Blaine Boyer, Casey Fien and closer Glen Perkins covered the last seven outs without damage.

Video: MIN@MIL: Hunter belts solo homer to left-center

"That's what I like about this ballclub -- they don't give up," Hunter said. "We have the fight. We have the resilience. We never give up. You've been seeing it the last couple of months. I like this club a lot."

Overall, it was the performance of a resilient team, or in the terminology used by first-year manager Paul Molitor, a team with mental toughness. In his Hall of Fame playing career, that was a quality for which Molitor was always known. In this case, mental toughness translated into shedding failure and moving forward.

Video: MIN@MIL: Hunter crushes second homer of the game

"It was a good win for us to come back after kind of getting pummeled last night," Molitor said. "I think we're continuing to learn how to do that. The more times you face adversity or a little bit of adverse times and you find the energy and come back and perform, it keeps pushing you in the right direction that you want to see a team go.

"We talk about what you have is today. Last night lingered probably at least through the night for a lot of people, I know it did for me, but you try to learn from it. You have to turn the page. Add on to that, learn from that experience, then come back here and win a game. You don't have to wait long before you go out there again.

"It's part of the clubhouse makeup, part of the leadership of the players. It's the maturing of another group of your players that are at that level where they've kind of been through enough; they've kind of gotten themselves established, now they're trying to figure out a way to win. It is a lot of how those guys take care of themselves that has allowed us to do that."

Video: MIN@MIL: Escobar parks three-run homer in the bullpen

You know the preseason AL Central script. The Tigers had won the division title four years in a row. The Royals were in the World Series last year. The Indians had enough pitching to win it all. The White Sox had made vast offseason improvements. There was no room for the Minnesota Twins to be anywhere other than fifth.

The Twins weren't buying that scenario. And over nearly three months of the season, they have demonstrated that they are indeed substantially better than that.

"The last two months we've been playing great ball and people are just waiting for us to fall," Hunter said. "It's amazing. I mean, it's not a fluke. We've had our tough times, but we've been playing good ball for two months and have a winning record and people say it's a fluke. How? We can play."

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for
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