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Twins' defining moments10/03/2004 10:19 PM ET
By Mark Schneider / MLB.com
First place: Minnesota took over first for good on July 25 when the Twins beat Baltimore, 8-4, to push their record to 54-44.
Offseason moment: The Twins' offseason trade of A.J. Pierzynski to the Giants for reliever Joe Nathan was a substantial risk. Minnesota lost an All-Star catcher in the deal and in return received a player who had never closed before. Nathan found his niche with astounding quickness and had a spectacular All-Star season, converting 44 of 47 saves on the year. He was untouchable for a stretch, not allowing a single run in 28 consecutive appearances.In-season moment: First baseman Doug Mientkiewicz was a favorite in the Twins' clubhouse and one of the team's most popular players with fans. He was batting only .246 with the Twins, however, and they decided it was time to let 23-year-old slugger Justin Morneau take over at first base full-time. In the final minutes of the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline, the Twins sent Mientkiewicz to Boston. Morneau became a powerful force in the heart of the Twins' order, finishing the season with 19 home runs in fewer than 300 at-bats. Game: On Aug. 15 at Cleveland, the Twins were struggling and frustrated, having lost eight of their past 10 games, and the Indians were surging, having trimmed Minnesota's AL Central lead to one game. In the fourth inning, Corey Koskie struck out with the bases loaded, then retreated into a tunnel behind the dugout and let loose a tirade. He reemerged a changed hitter, doubling in his next at-bat and lining a single to right in the at-bat after that. With the game tied at 2-2 in the 10th inning, Koskie belted a game-winning, two-run home run that gave the Twins a much-needed two-game lead in the division. The Indians faltered after that, and the Twins never looked back. MVP: Johan Santana's first full year as a starter could hardly have gone any better for Minnesota. Recovering from offseason elbow surgery, he started off the season slowly but got better and better as he went along. After the All-Star break, Santana was simply phenomenal, going 13-0 with a 1.21 ERA in 15 starts. He won the AL Pitcher of the Month Award in three straight months -- July, August and September -- and finished the year with 20 wins, an AL-best 2.61 ERA and an AL-leading 265 strikeouts.
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