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'Buck' uses his speed in dynamic performance

Outfielder has 2 bunt singles, leaping catch to prevent potential runs
Special to MLB.com

TORONTO -- Byron Buxton barely needed to swing his bat to help tilt Friday's game against Toronto in the Minnesota Twins' favor.

His fleet feet were a headache for the Blue Jays all night in Minnesota's 6-1 win, as one of the fastest players in baseball -- wearing the nickname "Buck" during this inaugural Players Weekend -- managed three hits including two bunt singles, two RBIs, a stolen base and a spectacular diving catch that likely saved two runs at a crucial moment in the eighth.

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TORONTO -- Byron Buxton barely needed to swing his bat to help tilt Friday's game against Toronto in the Minnesota Twins' favor.

His fleet feet were a headache for the Blue Jays all night in Minnesota's 6-1 win, as one of the fastest players in baseball -- wearing the nickname "Buck" during this inaugural Players Weekend -- managed three hits including two bunt singles, two RBIs, a stolen base and a spectacular diving catch that likely saved two runs at a crucial moment in the eighth.

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After the grab, he was uncharacteristically emotional in celebrating.

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"I think knowing that taking away a hit from them and also keeping the score, it kind of boosted me up a little bit," Buxton explained. "The crowd kind of heckling me a little bit and telling me all those things, and once you make a play like that, that kind of silences them.

Video: MIN@TOR: Buxton, Dozier on team win

"I was pretty pumped for that."

It was another dynamic performance in what has become a golden summer for the 23-year-old center fielder.

His speed was first a factor in the third inning. When Buxton came up with runners at the corners and only one out, he finessed a perfect bunt up the first-base line and past Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ ("Happer"), who fell to his knees to field the ball but couldn't get the runner at the plate or Buxton at first. He would then come around to score on Jorge Polanco's ("Chulo") double. It was Buxton's second safety squeeze in as many weeks (the other came Aug. 13 against Detroit).

Video: MIN@TOR: Buxton plates Dozier with a push-bunt single

"He made a perfect bunt," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "I think he got to first before anyone touched the ball."

Two innings later, Buxton came to the plate after Joe Mauer's leadoff double. The Blue Jays couldn't have been surprised when Buxton bunted again -- this time up the third-base line -- but again there was no stopping him. He went on to steal second, his 23rd of the season.

Then there was his rally-halting catch in the eighth. The Blue Jays had runners on first and second when Rob Refsnyder ("Ref") drilled a liner to deep right-center that had a hit probability of 72 percent, according to Statcast™. Buxton took off and made a miraculous-looking, leaping, twisting catch to end the inning.

For good measure, he drove in another run with a line-drive single to left in the ninth.

Video: MIN@TOR: Buxton rips an RBI single to left

"He can fly. He may be the fastest guy in the league," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "He can do so many things with those legs. He'll beat you with those legs."

Buxton is now hitting .315 in August with five homers and 16 RBIs, and he's hit .345 since July 4. That's a remarkable turnaround given that Buxton was hitting .216 with a .594 OPS and a 30.7 percent strikeout rate at the All-Star break.

Buxton, who wore the name of his son Brixton on his Players Weekend patch, credited those around him for helping him through his early-season struggles.

"It was my teammates and coaches and family standing behind me telling me to just stick with it, not to give up on myself, that eventually things were going to turn around," he said.

"That's what pushed me harder to get better every day and try to help this team out more than I was at the beginning of the season." 

Nick Patch is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Twins on Friday.

Minnesota Twins, Byron Buxton