Torii Hunter stood at second, pumping his arms and screaming at Brian Dozier, who had just crossed home plate. Dozier pointed at Hunter and screamed back. And there was a ruckus in the dugout, as Eduardo Escobar was jumping up and down while Kurt Suzuki sank fists into his sides.
“I was using him as a punching bag,” Suzuki admitted. “And he was laughing.”
They dance, they horse around, they laugh — all while distancing themselves from four years of losing.
Hunter’s two-run double in the seventh inning pushed the Twins past Toronto 6-5 and capped a monstrous May during which they went 20-7, took over first place in the AL Central and proved that this year’s team is not like the 90-loss teams of the past four years.
“All those things you look at that really good teams do, we’ve been able to do this month,” righthander Phil Hughes said. “It’s a small sample, and we have to continue this trend, but it’s a positive sign for us.”
The only other Twins team to win 20 games in May was Kirby Puckett and friends in 1990. That group went 21-7.
“A tough pace to keep up,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said, “but we’ll take what the month gave us for sure.”
They are getting good starting pitching. They are driving in runners in scoring position. They are getting some luck, too, but good teams make their breaks as much as they get them.
Sunday presented a different challenge in that they had to band together to keep the game within reach when Ricky Nolasco left the game after six batters because of a right ankle sprain.
It wasn’t a pitching gem. J.R. Graham gave up an unearned run in three innings and Tim Stauffer was touched for a pair of runs in 2⅓. But it was enough to help the Twins scramble back after trailing 4-1 heading into the sixth inning.
Dozier led off the sixth with a double, took third on Hunter’s fly ball and scored on Joe Mauer’s single. The announced crowd of 33,829 was just winding down from cheering when Trevor Plouffe put some kind of swing on a Drew Hutchinson pitch and sent it 434 feet into the second deck in left.
It was 4-4.
“When we get guys going we feel confident the next guy is going to get a hit,” Suzuki said.
Toronto’s Josh Donaldson stepped up in the next inning with an opposite field homer off of Stauffer, putting Toronto ahead 5-4.
In the bottom of the seventh, Aaron Hicks reached first on Jose Reyes’ throwing error. Dozier singled to left, bringing up Hunter. And he hit Roberto Osuna’s first pitch toward the wall in right.
Chris Colabello, the likeable former Twin, is not a good outfielder. He lumbered after the ball but if fell just out of his range for a two-run double and a 6-5 Twins lead.
“When I was running, I was like, ‘Get up, get up,’ ” Hunter said. “When it hit the wall, I was excited, I was pumped up. I think I had a little football intensity in me and tried to pump the team up with a little fist pump.”
Blaine Boyer pitched the eighth and Glen Perkins gave up a single to Reyes in the ninth before finishing up his 19th save.
The Twins finished May the same way they began it, with a thrilling one-run victory. They lost only one series all month and are one game behind Houston for best record in the American League.
They might not want this month to end.
“It’s May 31st,” Molitor said, “and I think we’re going to change tomorrow to May 32nd and see what happens.”