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Buxton hopes big game will jump-start season

Center fielder goes 3-for-4 with homer, makes terrific grab to open the game
MLB.com @RhettBollinger

MINNEAPOLIS -- Byron Buxton showed off his impressive tools against the Angels on Tuesday, making a leaping catch in right-center field to open the game, stealing a base that led to a run in the fifth and crushing a solo homer to left in the sixth.

Buxton went 3-for-4 with two runs scored, helping the Twins to a 5-4 win to clinch a series victory over the Angels on Independence Day at Target Field.

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MINNEAPOLIS -- Byron Buxton showed off his impressive tools against the Angels on Tuesday, making a leaping catch in right-center field to open the game, stealing a base that led to a run in the fifth and crushing a solo homer to left in the sixth.

Buxton went 3-for-4 with two runs scored, helping the Twins to a 5-4 win to clinch a series victory over the Angels on Independence Day at Target Field.

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"It was really good to see Buck have a good day," said Twins manager Paul Molitor. "He squared up a few balls, including the homer."

Buxton's impact defensively was felt on the third pitch of the game, as Cameron Maybin crushed a deep drive into right-center that Buxton tracked down before leaping into the wall to make the grab. It robbed Maybin of a "barreled ball" that had a hit percentage of 65 percent, but Buxton made it look so simple that second baseman Brian Dozier joked with him as he came back to the dugout.

Video: LAA@MIN: Buxton leaps to make a tremendous grab

"Outcomes can often be determined early in a ballgame and that wasn't an easy catch," Molitor said. "He made it look easy, though. Dozier gave him the yawn treatment as he came off the field. But the intensity he brings to the game, he's just always ready to play."

Buxton struck out in the second against Angels right-hander J.C. Ramirez after working the count full, but fared much better at the plate the rest of the way. He helped spark a two-run rally in the fifth with a leadoff single, before stealing second for his 15th stolen base of the year. Robbie Grossman followed with a double down the right-field line that easily scored Buxton.

Video: LAA@MIN: Grossman rips an RBI double to right

In the sixth, Buxton provided an insurance run with a solo blast off reliever Blake Parker, who hadn't been charged with a run in 31 of his last 33 outings. It was a no-doubter, leaving the bat at 107.1 mph and traveling a projected 416 feet at a launch angle of 21 degrees, per Statcast™. It was the fourth-hardest hit homer of Buxton's career by exit velocity.

Molitor also believed it was validation for Buxton, who has worked to cut down on his leg kick in recent weeks to improve his contact rate.

"I think there's a challenge to it, but even guys with leg kicks sometimes take batting practice flat-footed to get their hands going," Molitor said. "I think over time he's starting to trust it a little more. But any time you make a fairly significant adjustment to your mechanics it's going to take some time to get that feel. But he's taking steps to becoming a more consistent player."

Buxton also singled in the eighth to mark this third three-hit game of the year, and his first since June 14.

"He got good feedback," Molitor said. "He stayed back on a changeup in that last at-bat. I think he just has to remember during the game that all the work he puts in during practice you can't think about during the game. You have to just let it fly, and he got good results there."

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast.

Minnesota Twins, Byron Buxton