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Twins extend Central dynasty

As Torii Hunter stood in the middle of the Twins' raucous clubhouse, two teammates sneaked up from behind and threw a cooler full of water on him.

Hunter didn't even flinch. If anything, the grin on his face got a little brighter. After everything the Twins have endured the past couple seasons, it's going to take a lot more than cold water to spoil their party.

"Every year we've got to go out there and prove to somebody. But you know what? I like it," Hunter said after the Twins clinched their third straight Central title Monday night with an 8-2 victory over the White Sox.

"We're the underdogs, and we've got something to prove every day," he said. "That's our motivation, to go out there and prove people wrong."

The game was all but over after the first inning, when Hunter and Corey Koskie hit two-run homers off Mark Buehrle. Though they were forced to host someone else's party, the White Sox never put up much of a fight.

The Twins hung over the railing in front of their dugout for the final inning, and manager Ron Gardenhire inserted Jacque Jones, one of the few players left over from the team that was threatened with elimination, as a defensive replacement so the veteran could be on the field.

When Timo Perez popped out to shortstop Cristian Guzman for the final out, the Twins rushed onto the field, turning second base into an impromptu mosh pit.

After bopping around and hugging for several minutes, they went to the dugout to shake hands with the coaching staff. Gardenhire stayed at the end of the line, hugging each player as he came off.

A couple hundred Twins fans stood behind the dugout whooping and hollering, and the scoreboard flashed congratulations. The Twins have reached the playoffs in three straight seasons for the first time in their 44-year history.

"They're all great," Gardenhire said about Minnesota's three straight titles. "It means everything in the world."