CHICAGO -- Byron Buxton wasted little time in his first game at leadoff hitter this year, smacking the first pitch from White Sox ace Chris Sale over the head of center fielder Leury García for an inside-the-park homer in the Twins' 6-3 win in the season finale on Sunday.
Buxton showed off his elite speed, as he made it to home in 14.05 seconds, which was the fastest time recorded by Statcast™ on an inside-the-parker over the last two seasons. For context, the second-fastest this year was 14.85 seconds from Melvin Upton Jr., while Brett Gardner had the third-fastest at 14.89 seconds.
"Out of the box, I just took off hard," Buxton said. "I didn't know what would happen. Between first and second, I saw he didn't catch it so I said to myself, 'This is going to be interesting.' So I felt like I was going faster, but I'm not sure I really was."
Buxton hinted he could've made it home even quicker if he had rounded the bases better, but manager Paul Molitor was impressed by Buxton's speed, as he didn't even need to slide into home.
"That's top tier," Molitor said. "Home-to-home, you're not going to see many guys top that. It was fast in real-time. As soon as you saw the funny carom, you knew he was off to the races. If baseball was five bases, he probably would've been safe, too. He was gone."
It came on a first-pitch 93-mph fastball, leaving the bat at 93.4 mph and traveling a projected 395 feet to center, per Statcast™. Garcia, who couldn't make the play, came out of the game with a sore left hip.
It also helped the Twins tie a Major League record, as it was Buxton's 10th homer of the year, giving the Twins 11 players with at least 10 homers this year. It ties the record set by the 2004 Tigers and the 2015 Astros.
It was the ninth leadoff inside-the-parker since 2000, but the second by the Twins this year, as Eduardo Núñez also did it at Target Field on June 2 against the Rays. It was the first inside-the-park homer on a first-pitch since Tim Raines in 1981, but that came in the bottom of the first, according to Baseball Reference.
Buxton also doubled in the third, going 2-for-4 with two runs and a walk to finish strong and provide optimism going into next year. After being called up on Sept. 1, Buxton hit .287/.357/.653 with nine homers, six doubles, two triples, 24 runs and 22 RBIs in 29 games. He finished his rookie year hitting .225/.284/.430 with 10 homers, 38 RBIs and 10 stolen bases in 92 games.
"I think it just comes with more experience," Buxton said. "I'm figuring out what pitchers are trying to do to me. I'm going up there trying to be aggressive. Sometimes I get overaggressive, but even being aggressive allows me to lay off some of the pitches I used to swing at. I'm recognizing pitches better and putting better swings on it."