Buxton wins it with longest walk-off HR on record

Twins OF clubs pair of jacks, including 469-foot blast in 10th to seal series sweep

April 25th, 2022

MINNEAPOLIS -- Byron Buxton had no idea where his walk-off blast landed -- and that wasn’t because it traveled so far into the gray afternoon sky, destined to be the longest walk-off ever tracked by Statcast.

He simply didn’t care.

The moment the ball left his bat in the 10th inning on its 469-foot trajectory into Target Field’s third deck, Buxton roared and clapped at his teammates in the dugout pouring over the rail, starting their shared celebration of Sunday's 6-4 sweep-clinching victory over the White Sox even before he left the batter’s box.

Buxton’s star power carried the day for the Twins, as his two homers and five RBIs both erased late deficits against the American League Central favorites, while the lineup around him otherwise struggled to cash in on numerous scoring chances. Thanks to their superstar center fielder’s effort, Minnesota has won four in a row and sits alone atop the division despite the offense’s rough start.

“Right now, there’s no better player in the world than him,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “I think he’s absolutely the best player in the world when he’s out there running around doing his thing.

“We need to put [up] the statue of him right now!” Miguel Sanó yelled in the music-filled postgame clubhouse lit up by disco lights.

“Best player in the game, right here!” Carlos Correa exclaimed.

Buxton’s five RBIs matched a career high, and the winning blast on a fastball from Liam Hendriks marked the second walk-off homer of his career, and the first since 2017. That one erased a 4-3 deficit and made Statcast history. The seventh-inning blast was just as significant, as the line drive onto the right-field overhang pulled the Twins back from a 3-1 hole and marked only the fourth opposite-field shot of Buxton’s career.

“There’s nothing typical or everyday or normal about that,” Baldelli said. “That’s very, very special, and I don’t want to stop talking about it, because it’s so impressive.

This was Buxton’s moment, arguably the defining game of his career to this point. But as he relived those big swings, his focus kept going back to how his teammates helped him get there.

Buxton explained that before he went to the plate for that decisive at-bat in the 10th inning, he heard chimes from all around the dugout, from Sanó to Correa to everyone in between: “Buck, you’re going to win it."

“Things like that, you hear them,” Buxton said. “You don't know within yourself that you're about to do it. But once I got in the batter's box, that confidence took over and it got the job done."

Don’t forget Buxton’s afternoon started with three straight swinging strikeouts against White Sox starter Lucas Giolito. When he walked back to the dugout following the third of those, he just figured he wouldn’t see the ball well this game until Correa took him aside for a pep talk, superstar to superstar.

“Stay in your zone,” Correa told him. “Get back to being you.”

“It relaxed me and put me in that comfortable zone to go out there and just play ball,” Buxton said. “That just lets you know as far as the players and where we're at as a group, we know how to get each other locked in. That's the fun part of being in this locker room.

Much of the equation for this team’s success might come in how it can help get Buxton in that zone, because that’s when he changes the course of games.

When he’s in that zone, he does things on a baseball field that leaves everyone in his dugout in awe. That energizes them -- and in turn, their confidence grows. That confidence feeds forward to energize him to keep reaching new heights -- as he does by following up a four-hit game with the longest walk-off in Statcast history and an opposite-field homer that continues to show the evolution of his pull power-oriented game.

“The biggest part is that confidence taking over the clubhouse,” Buxton said. “Once you've got a confident clubhouse, I said it yesterday -- there's nothing that we aren't capable of doing. This is just the start."

Best player in the world, his manager says. Does he agree?

"I do,” Buxton said after a pause. “In different ways. I have high expectations."

And then, of course, right back to the team that helps him be at his best.

“For me, this team also has high expectations,” he added.