MINNEAPOLIS -- On the same day a new defensive metric unveiled by Statcast™ showed Byron Buxton has been the best defensive outfielder in baseball, Buxton showed he's no slouch offensively either.
Buxton continued his incredible breakout season with a walk-off solo homer in the 10th inning to lift the Twins to a critical 3-2 win over the Blue Jays on Thursday night at Target Field. It was the second straight walk-off homer for Minnesota, which has won three straight and improved its lead for the second AL Wild Card spot to three games over the Angels with 16 games to play.
"Just to be able to jog around those bases and meet your teammates at home plate is indescribable," said Buxton, who hadn't hit a walk-off homer since playing in Class A in 2013. "Back-to-back nights of battling and coming through kind of had a different feeling out there. There were emotions you couldn't really control in the moment."
Buxton, who has been nursing a bruised left hand since Aug. 31, came up with two outs against Luis Santos an inning after de facto closer Matt Belisle gave up a game-tying homer to Justin Smoak with two outs in the ninth. Buxton sat on an offspeed pitch after Santos missed with a high fastball and jumped all over a hanging slider, crushing a no-doubt homer to left. The homer had an exit velocity of 103.4 mph and traveled a projected 405 feet, per Statcast™.
"I was just hoping Buck could get on base, steal second and maybe we get a single," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "So for him to be able to put a good swing, I know he's been battling, we talk about the hand all the time, he's finding a way to compete with no complaints, and tonight he walks it off."
It was the 15th homer of the year for Buxton, and his fourth against the Blue Jays after a three-homer game on Aug. 27.
"We haven't been able to keep him in the park," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "He's going to be a great, great player."
Buxton's emergence offensively has provided a huge boost to the contending Twins, but his teammates said they always expected him to break through, because of his obvious talent that saw him consistently get named the No. 1 prospect in baseball.
"It doesn't surprise me," said right-hander Jose Berrios. "We played together in the Minors since 2012 and he's done that at every level. Every year I've played with him, that's who he is. Obviously, his first two years in the big leagues were a struggle, but that's part of the learning curve. But that's who he is as a hitter and who he's always been."
It also marked the second time in franchise history the club won consecutive games on walk-off homers, and the first time since Aug. 6-7, 1970, vs. the A's. The Twins had a similar celebration to Wednesday night with teammates throwing a bucket of bubble gum over Buxton as he crossed home plate.
"Hopefully we've got some more in stock," Buxton said with a laugh. "That comes with having fun and us enjoying the game."