Veteran outfielder motivates team to battle back, gets it done with ninth-inning blast
By August Fagerstrom
CLEVELAND -- A wise man named Torii Hunter once said after a gutsy victory in Cleveland, "When trees are in hurricanes and storms, all they do is grow deeper roots so they won't tip over. That's what we have to do is grow deeper roots, dig deep and try to withstand the storm."
Hunter played the role of motivational speaker during the Twins' 10-9 victory on Saturday -- and the role of philosopher after it.
The team was on the heels of a deflating four-game sweep, and manager Paul Molitor said before Friday's contest that the team needed to figure out a way to weather the storm.
The Twins appeared to respond well, jumping out to an early 6-0 lead against rookie pitcher Cody Anderson, but the lead was one they quickly relinquished, as the Indians tagged starter Mike Pelfrey and reliever A.J. Achter for nine runs over the next two innings.
"I think Torii was kind of fired up," Pelfrey said, " ... when they made it 9-7 and [he was] yelling, 'Let's go.'"
"We had some tension in that dugout," Hunter said. "In a good way, not towards anybody, just trying to pump each other up."
Hunter was the first man up in the fifth inning after he implored his teammates not to give up, and he backed up his talk with a double to left field. He later scored on an Aaron Hicks double, shaving the deficit to one run.
"He knows when to step up and he knows when to get a little more vocal," Molitor said. "It's a combination of not trying to show panic but still show how much passion and intensity you have from winning."
Hunter also played the role of hero with his go-ahead home run in the ninth inning that gave the Twins their 10-9 lead. The former long-time Twin was brought to the club in the offseason not only for his play on the field, but for his presence in the dugout and clubhouse. Both were on display in Cleveland on Friday night.
"This isn't my first rodeo," Hunter said. "I know how to bear down and get it done. That's what I did. I really want to help this ballclub out and give a boost. So did [Trevor] Plouffe, so did [Brian] Dozier, so did [Eddie] Rosario, Hicks, everybody pitched in and everybody had a hit. It was a lot of fun today, but it was a battle."
August Fagerstrom is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.