Buxton's grab caps big night by Twins' outfield
Rookie phenom saves game after diving catch with bases loaded in the ninth
HOUSTON -- The Twins debuted their potential outfield of the future against the Astros on Saturday, and it paid immediate dividends in a much-needed 3-2 win at Minute Maid Park.
Eddie Rosario started in left field, Byron Buxton started in center and Aaron Hicks started in right with all three contributing in the victory. Buxton made the game-saving catch in the ninth to end it on a hard-hit line drive from Jose Altuve with the bases loaded to preserve Kevin Jepsen's save. Buxton had a route efficiency of 95.5 percent with a top speed of 16.5 mph, according to Statcast™ data.
"To be honest with you, I thought it was a base hit," Jepsen said. "I really did. Luckily, it carried enough and Bux was playing in."
But it was far from the only solid defensive play, as Buxton also ran down a ball in left-center to rob Altuve of extra bases in the eighth, while Hicks made a nice catch on a liner he lost in the lights for the first out of the ninth.
"We saw some nice plays," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "Buxton going in the left-center field gap. Hicks battling the lights in the ninth. And the last ball, we brought the outfield in a little bit to cut down on the go-ahead run at second. It just worked out. Altuve hit it on the screws, but Buxton got a great jump and had to fight the ball knuckling on him."
The trio also came through offensively with Rosario providing the go-ahead two-run triple in the ninth off Astros closer Luke Gregerson. Rosario was down 0-2 in the count, but lined a slider out of the strike zone into the right-field corner that went off George Springer's glove on a diving attempt.
"His at-bat was really good," Molitor said. "You know Gregerson is a guy who is really good at expanding the strike zone and you know Rosario likes to expand the strike zone and so it's not a good combination, but he stayed with the at-bat."
Buxton's speed also created a run in the sixth, when he hit a line drive into left-center field and turned a routine single into a double. Hicks followed with a bunt single to move over Buxton before Buxton scored on a double play from Brian Dozier.
"That was pretty electric," Molitor said. "You watch the flight of the ball and you see [Carlos] Gomez see right away who hit it so there was no wasted movements on his part. But then you peak around first and he's halfway to second and it's game on."
It's an outfield the Twins will use plenty down the stretch and in the coming years, as youth is on their side, as Buxton is 21, Rosario is 23 and Hicks is 25.
"It's fun for all of us to be out there together," Hicks said. "It's definitely something that's pretty sweet to have three young guys out there playing baseball and having fun. It's a fast outfield and it'll give us opportunities to throw guys out."