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Hunter, Ibanez share AL honor

Hunter, Ibanez share AL honor

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One is a player for a playoff contender; the other is just playing for pride. But both performed great over the past week.

Outfielders Torii Hunter and Raul Ibanez have been named Bank of America Co-Players of the Week for the American League for the period ending Sept. 24.

Hunter, center fielder for the Twins, hit .423 with a .808 slugging percentage, including three home runs and nine RBIs.

The Twins are 1 1/2 games behind the Tigers in the AL Central and atop in the Wild Card standings with a week to play. With Hunter starting to heat up in a lineup also featuring Joe Mauer, Cuddyer and MVP-candidate Morneau, Minnesota has the weapons to go deep into October with a team that is playing great baseball at the right time.

"It feels real good," Hunter said of his late power surge. "I've been hurt all year. I'm still feeling it, but at the same time, it's a lot better. ... You know, you just want to be a part of the team. [Michael] Cuddyer and [Justin] Morneau, these guys are doing good and I want to be a part of it. I don't want to be the weak link."

One of Hunter's highlights this past week was hitting a three-run homer on Sept. 20 at Boston, the same place he broke his left ankle in 2005.

"My motivation right now is that we're in the playoff race," Hunter said of his hot streak. "If you can't get pumped up to play for that, there's something wrong with you. I'm addicted to the playoffs. I want to get there and win the World Series."

The Twins are 1 1/2 games behind the Tigers in the AL Central and in first place in the Wild Card with a week to play. With Hunter starting to heat up in a lineup also featuring Joe Mauer, Cuddyer and MVP-candidate Morneau, Minnesota has the weapons to go deep into October with a team that is playing great baseball at the right time.

"We need him to drive in runs in big situations, and he's been doing it," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Hunter. "This is the time of year when every game seems like a playoff game and players step up. That's what Torii does, he steps up and does his thing."

Ibanez has helped Seattle win four of their last six games by hitting .424 with a .758 slugging percentage, including three homers and seven RBIs. Ibanez is even riding an eight-game hitting streak.

The Mariners left fielder is having his best power season since first appearing with the Seattle in 1996. His 30 homers, 97 runs and 117 RBIs are all career highs and he also has 33 doubles and 62 walks.

"I've done some things better," Ibanez said. "I haven't been as good doing other things, but statistically there are some career highs in there for me. Things have gone pretty well.

"I've accomplished some things I've worked on, but as a club we fell short. We were in it for a while and that was a good thing for us, but we had a rough road trip. It's been disappointing as a club, but now we've got to finish strong."

Ibanez's biggest day this past week was on Sept. 21 against the White Sox, when he had his 1,000th career hit with a homer off Javier Vazquez in the seventh inning.

"It's a blessing to be able to get 1,000 hits," said Ibanez, who was able to retrieve the ball from his home run. "Early in my career, I would have been fortunate to get 1,000 at-bats."

In the four-game series against the Chicago, Ibanez went 9-for-19 with two homers and six RBIs.

Other candidates for this week include: Cleveland's Victor Martinez, Chicago's Jim Thome, Detroit's Magglio Ordoñez and Baltimore's Miguel Tejada.

Ryan Quinn is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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