Buxton's HR puts Twins near MLB mark in win

Outfielder is 11th Minnesota player with 10-plus homers this season, tying franchise mark

July 31st, 2019

MIAMI -- The Bomba Squad continues making history.

When went deep with one out during the third inning of Tuesday’s 2-1 win over the Marlins at Marlins Park, the Twins tied a franchise record with 11 players with 10-plus homers.

The Major League record is 12, set by the 2018 Yankees. Entering Tuesday, the Twins were on pace for 316 home runs, which would pass the MLB record of 267 achieved by last year's Bronx Bombers. Infielder Ehire Adrianza is next closest to double figures with four homers.

Since returning from the injured list (concussion-like symptoms) last Thursday, Buxton is 7-for-17 with four doubles and a homer. According to Statcast, Buxton sent Marlins right-hander Zac Gallen's first-pitch curveball a projected distance of 401 feet, with an exit velocity of 101 mph.

“With the pitcher coming up, I was 95 percent sure I wouldn't get a fastball, so it's times like that where I'm trying to rely a little bit on sitting on pitches,” said Buxton, who hit eighth ahead of right-hander Jake Odorizzi in the lineup. “That was one of the at-bats that I trusted myself, trusted the process, and I sat on a curveball and put a good swing on it.”

Minnesota now has 206 taters on the season -- tied for the third most in club history (the 1963 team hit a record 225).

Miguel Sano, who has gone deep 18 times, produced a fourth-inning RBI double that proved to be the difference in his return to Marlins Park for the first time since participating in 2017 All-Star festivities. It had a game-high exit velocity of 112.6 mph, according to Statcast.

“It certainly is a deep lineup, and we know that every day when we make the lineup,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “We think we have really good Major League hitters that are not out there every night. [Nelson] Cruz and [Jonathan Schoop] and [Ehire Adrianza] and [Jason] Castro all have very nice years offensively, so I think Byron going out there, getting us going, hitting a homer, it’s nice to get the momentum kind of going your way.”

Paired with the Tribe's loss to the Astros, the Twins extended their lead in the American League Central to three games with less than 24 hours remaining before the Trade Deadline. 

While Cleveland reportedly dealt right-hander Trevor Bauer as part of a three-team trade to acquire Major League outfielders Yasiel Puig (Reds) and Franmil Reyes (Padres) as well as left-hander Logan Allen (Padres) late Tuesday, Baldelli had discussed his contentment with his roster prior to Minnesota’s series-opening win.

“I like our team as we sit here right now, so I feel good about the guys who are in that clubhouse and being able to go out there and continue to win games,” Baldelli said. “We can do that, and I think everyone in that clubhouse agrees with me.”

Part of that is because of the bullpen, which threw 3 1/3 scoreless innings on Tuesday. That included a scoreless eighth from Sergio Romo in his debut.

A big reason is Buxton's emergence. Through his first 306 games spanning parts of four big league seasons, he had a slash line of .230/.285/.387 with 28 homers, a .672 OPS and an 80 OPS+.

In 2019, Buxton has been trending with career highs across the board via Statcast: exit velocity (89.1 mph), launch angle (19.5 degrees) and hard-hit rate (37.8 percent). His strikeout rate (22.6), meanwhile, is at a career low.

“I don't pay attention to what I'm doing, probably the first year I haven't paid attention to my stats, paid attention to how hard the ball's coming off,” Buxton said. “I'm just going out there playing and trying to help us win. You got to put that stuff to the side and just focus on what you can do to contribute every day.”