The dog days of August were not good to 40-year-old veteran Torii Hunter.
Hunter hit .130 with two home runs and just nine runs batted in over 21 games in August, drawing just six walks to put his monthly on-base percentage at a miserable .218. His valuable role as a locker room leader was handcuffed by his inability to make a difference on the field.
But now those days are over, the Minnesota Twins are in a tight playoff race, and the team’s clubhouse leader is playing some of his best baseball of the season. In ten games this month, Hunter is slashing .333/.350/.487, he has driven in six runs over his last four games, and the Twins are flying, having won six of their last seven series.
The ageless wonder has helped contribute early in back-to-back wins for Minnesota, allowing them to jump out to a fast start in part of a blowout victory. Hunter found himself locked in first-inning battle with Chicago White Sox ace Chris Sale on Sunday afternoon, turning the tenth pitch he saw into a three run home run, the 350th longball of his 19-year career. Last night against the Detroit Tigers, Hunter extended the Twins 2-0 lead even further by beating out an infield single, allowing rookie designated hitter Miguel Sano to cross home plate.
One well-documented note on the leadership that Hunter has brought to the Twins is his ability to keep the clubhouse loose and after last night’s win, that ability was seen by everyone as he and All-Star second baseman Brian Dozier unleashed some moves in post game dance party.
Being in a playoff race is new to this young Twins roster. The team has suffered through four 90-loss seasons in a row, but that is now in the past as they continue to make a postseason push. Minnesota kept pace with the Texas Rangers with their win last night, and they remain just a game back for the second wild card spot in the American League with just a few weeks to go in the regular season.
The Twins continue their series against the Tigers tonight with Phil Hughes returning to the mound. Hughes is 10-8 with a 4.49 ERA this season but he hasn’t pitched since August 8 when he started to suffer from a back injury. Detroit will counter with Alfredo Simon.