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Twins' 2017 a triumphant turnaround

Minnesota makes postseason with big years from Santana, Buxton, Sano
MLB.com @RhettBollinger

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins made history in 2017, becoming the first Major League team to go from losing more than 100 games in a season to making the postseason the following year with their run to the American League Wild Card Game against the Yankees.

It ended in a loss at Yankee Stadium, but it was still a successful season for the Twins, who defied the odds and broke a club record by improving their win total by 26 games, going from a Major League-worst 59 victories in 2016 to 85 in '17.

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins made history in 2017, becoming the first Major League team to go from losing more than 100 games in a season to making the postseason the following year with their run to the American League Wild Card Game against the Yankees.

It ended in a loss at Yankee Stadium, but it was still a successful season for the Twins, who defied the odds and broke a club record by improving their win total by 26 games, going from a Major League-worst 59 victories in 2016 to 85 in '17.

The Twins saw their young core of position players emerge, with strong seasons from Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario, Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler coupled with showings from veterans Joe Mauer and Brian Dozier. The starting pitching also improved with Ervin Santana leading the staff, Jose Berrios experiencing a breakout sophomore season and Kyle Gibson pitching well in the second half.

"You can look at a lot of different things as far as reasons that we're able to have a winning season as opposed to 103 [losses] last season," said Twins manager Paul Molitor, who earned a three-year extension after the season. "I knew that we had to find a way to pitch better, and we did. Maybe not tremendously better, but we were better. I think the biggest change that we saw day to day was the way that we protected the baseball on the defensive side of the game."

Here is a look at the top five moments of the season.

Santana dazzles
Santana was undoubtedly Minnesota's ace, and he began the season strong, including his best start of the year on April 15 in a one-hit shutout against the White Sox at Target Field. It was his second career one-hitter, and it lowered his ERA to 0.41 across his first three starts. The lone hit he gave up came on a clean single from Omar Narvaez in the third, and he struck out eight.

Video: CWS@MIN: Santana dazzles with one-hit shutout

Buxton makes spectacular catch
Buxton made so many incredible defensive plays that it's hard to separate them from each other, but his catch on Mother's Day to rob Cleveland's Carlos Santana of extra bases was perhaps his best. Buxton raced into the right-center-field gap, leaping full-speed into the wall with such force that it knocked off his hat and sunglasses. Buxton came up with the catch, and it was one of many en route to his Rawlings Platinum Glove Award-winning season as the best defender in baseball.

Video: Must C Catch: Buxton runs into wall for great catch

Three's a charm
Both Rosario and Buxton each had three-homer games, with Rosario hitting three against the Mariners on June 13 and Buxton connecting on three versus the Blue Jays on Aug. 27. Coming into the season, the only Twins to hit three homers in a game were Tony Oliva, Harmon Killebrew, Bob Allison, Justin Morneau, Dozier and Kepler.

Video: Must C Combo: Rosario smashes three home runs

Sano turns triple play
Before Minnesota's game against the Angels on June 1, Sano made it a point to practice fielding a potential triple play before the game, and his premonition came true. Jefry Marte hit a grounder down the third-base line, and Sano stepped on third to start a 5-4-3 triple play. It was the first triple play turned by the Twins since May 7, 2006, and the 11th in franchise history.

Video: Must C Classic: Sano starts 5-4-3 triple play

Twins clinch postseason berth
The Twins had to wait at Progressive Field on Sept. 27 to see if the White Sox would beat the Angels to give Minnesota its first postseason berth since 2010. They were rewarded with Nicky Delmonico hitting a walk-off homer, causing the Twins to celebrate in the visiting clubhouse in Cleveland.

Video: Must C Clinch: Twins clinch second AL Wild Card spot

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

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