Twins finish month with 20 wins for first time since 1991

Aaron Hicks (center) and Joe Mauer (right) welcome Brian Dozier home as he scores on a two-run double by Torii Hunter during the seventh inning. The Twins won 6-5.

Ann Heisenfelt/Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — A 6-5 win over Toronto on Sunday marked the Minnesota Twins’ 20th win in the month of May. At the time Glen Perkins closed out the victory, three teams in the majors — Oakland, Philadelphia and Milwaukee — had yet to win 20 games for the entire 2015 season.

It’s been quite the month for the first-place Twins, who have never been more disappointed to see the calendar turn to June.

"If you can win 20 games in a month, you’re doing some good things," Twins manager Paul Molitor said after Sunday’s win. "I think we’re going to change tomorrow to May 32nd."

This marks the first time since 1991 that Minnesota has won 20 games in a month. That year’s Twins team went 22-6 in June en route to winning their second World Series. Of course, any World Series chatter would be far premature for this year’s edition of the Twins, but the early — and arguably surprising — success Minnesota has had is hard to ignore.

The Twins turn the page on the calendar and will begin June with the best record in the American League. Minnesota is 30-19 overall, a slightly higher winning percentage than the 31-20 Houston Astros. Along with that impressive record comes sole possession of first place in the AL Central after an extra-innings loss by the Kansas City Royals on Sunday in Chicago. For the first time in a while, Twins fans are keeping a close eye on the out-of-town scoreboard.

Minnesota started turning some heads in late April when the Twins steadied the ship after a rough 1-6 start to the season. Now with a 20-win month of May, that same team is trying to prove that their success is no fluke through two months.

"We want to prove the critics wrong," said Torii Hunter, whose two-run double in the seventh inning was the difference in Sunday’s win. "That’s always fun, so they can swallow their words and choke on them."

Sunday’s game was another example of how different this season has been for Minnesota compared to the last four Twins teams that all lost 90-plus games. Despite falling behind 4-1 in the fifth inning, Minnesota didn’t crumple. Instead, the Twins rallied to tie the game in the sixth thanks to a two-run home run by Trevor Plouffe.

Twins 6, Blue Jays 5

Minnesota did all of this with its starting pitcher, Ricky Nolasco, leaving due to an ankle injury without recording an out in the top of the second inning. That forced the Twins’ bullpen to pick up the slack for the final eight innings, led by three innings from Rule 5 pitcher J.R. Graham. By the time the one-run lead got to Perkins in the ninth inning, the two-time All-Star closer earned his league-best 19th save of the year.

As the Twins continue to find ways to win, different players step on in big situations. Hunter credited Graham for helping settle things a bit after Nolasco’s early exit. Two earned runs in eight innings from the bullpen led to another win. Minnesota’s 30-19 record is the most wins they’ve had through 49 games since 2001.

"It’s pretty amazing," Graham said. "You hear the stories from years past. I try not to dwell on that, because what I know is what we have here, and we have a great team. To see the way the guys battled today . . . there’s no defeat, no surrender. It’s been a lot of fun."

The question now is whether or not Minnesota can sustain the success they had in April and, to a greater extent, May. The Twins haven’t done any one thing extremely well, but rather have made noticeable improvements in a lot of different areas. That’s added up to the best record in the American League after few people outside of that clubhouse gave the Twins a chance in 2015.

If Minnesota can come anywhere close to replicating its success in May, the Twins might prove more critics wrong.

"I’m not a big stat guy. I don’t know all the stats. People talk about, ‘Can the Twins keep it going?’" said catcher Kurt Suzuki. "I think we can definitely keep having fun. If we keep having fun and going out there every day and playing hard, that’s the only thing we can control.  . . . I’m pretty confident we’re going to keep having fun."

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