Unheralded players help Twins cap sweep of Padres

Backups, along with prospects who began the season in the minors, are enjoying time in the spotlight for heroics that have altered the Twins' fortunes.

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The Canadian held out a fist toward the catcher and said, "It's all because of this man."

The catcher held out his fist -- for a bump -- and responded, "We don't get there unless you hit it."

In recent years, this would have been an exchange between former MVPs Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer. On Sunday, it was a different Canadian, outfielder Rene Tosoni, and a different catcher, Drew Butera, following the Twins' 5-4 walk-off victory over San Diego that completed a three-game sweep of the series and continued their run of revival.

Tosoni hit a big RBI double in the seventh, and Butera's grounder in the ninth deflected off of Chase Headley's glove at third and into left, enabling Delmon Young to score the winning run from second.

It has been the contributions from unheralded players such as Tosoni and Butera -- and, on Sunday, Luke Hughes and Matt Tolbert -- that have helped the Twins win seven in a row and 14 of 16 games. Most Twins regulars have either been broken down or have swung broken bats this season. Until they get back in the lineup and get locked in, the Twins will take runs any way they can get them.

And the replacements have bunted, stolen bases, put the ball in play and hustled. It hasn't worked all the time, but lately, it has been enough for the Twins to take advantage of outstanding starting pitching. Their victory Sunday lifted them out of last place in the AL Central for the first time since May 8.

"When you win, you get confidence," right fielder Michael Cuddyer said, "and it's just not one or two people who gets confidence, the whole team gets confidence."

The Twins trailed 3-1 in the seventh inning when several players decided to step up.

Hughes reached first on a throwing error by Headley. Cuddyer scored to cut the deficit to 3-2. Tosoni pinch hit for catcher Rene Rivera and dug in against slider-intensive Mike Adams, one of the best relievers in the league.

An eight-pitch battle broke out. With the count 3-2, Tosoni fouled off two pitches, then stroked a double down the right field line to score Hughes.

Tosoni is batting .190. He has been called up twice this season and is trying to prove he belongs. Sunday, he came off the bench and got a hit off of a talented reliever during a key moment.

"Tosoni got me fired up seeing his at-bat," Tolbert said. "I was like, 'All right, I've got to do my part.' "

Tolbert hit a 2-1 fastball into the gap in left-center, scoring Tosoni with what was the lead run at the time. Will Venable's RBI infield hit tied the score at 4-4 in the eighth, but Butera's heroics in the ninth capped a fine day for the fill-ins.

The Twins are digging themselves out of the massive hole they dug earlier in the season, a handful of dirt at a time.

First, they had to stop being the worst team in baseball, record-wise. Now they are no longer the worst team in the American League -- and have passed the Royals in the Central while doing so.

The next step is to get back to .500 -- at 31-39, the Twins are still eight games under. Then they have to see where they are at the All-Star Break.

They are not back in "it" yet. But because of recent contributions from players such as Tosoni, Hughes, Tolbert and Butera -- however frequent or infrequent they have been -- the self-inflicted wounds the Twins suffered over the first two months of the season no longer appear mortal.

"We are all carrying each other," Tosoni said. "It's a team sport, right? Awesome."

La Velle E. Neal III • lneal@startribune.com

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