Buxton (4 hits) flirts with cycle, Twins cruise

April 24th, 2022

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins’ offense goes as Byron Buxton goes. That much was clear on Saturday afternoon at Target Field.

Minnesota notched a season-high 14 hits and Buxton finished a triple shy of the cycle in his return to center field as the Twins rolled to a 9-2 win over the White Sox. Buxton reached base in all five of his plate appearances, going 4-for-4 with two RBIs.

“He looked very on top of everything and sharp, a lot of good swings, great baserunning,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He looked like a star out there running around.”

In the shadow of Minnesota’s recent offensive struggles, Buxton’s energy and talent was even more apparent. He had played just once in the previous seven games as he dealt with a right knee injury he suffered on April 15. Minnesota scored more than three runs just once in that stretch.

But Saturday marked his return to full duty after serving as the designated hitter in the Twins’ final game in Kansas City. And his full game -- and full potential -- were on display.

Batting leadoff, Buxton’s presence was felt immediately, opening the first inning with a single and later scoring on a Jorge Polanco fielder's choice. Buxton’s second-inning double plated catcher Ryan Jeffers and he scored again on a Luis Arraez single to give Minnesota a 3-0 lead. Then in the fourth inning, Buxton hit a Statcast-projected 407-foot home run, his fourth of the season.

“If I can set the tone for the game, I know that gets us going and like I said in the past, that gets me going once they get going,” Buxton said. “It’s kind of like that domino effect for us.”

In nearly every offensive burst, Buxton was that first domino. Whether it was getting on base and using his speed to distract the pitchers and later score or hitting a solo home run to knock starter Vince Velasquez out of the game.

“He can do some special things on a baseball field, that’s for sure,” said starter Dylan Bundy, who threw five scoreless innings and lowered his ERA to 0.59 through three starts. “I think we’re just getting a glimpse of what he’s going to be able to do in the future.”

And he nearly achieved something only 11 other Twins have done in the past: hit for the cycle. Buxton had two opportunities to complete it. In the fifth inning, he saw three pitches before being hit by the fourth. Then in the seventh, he lined a base hit into right field.

“Honestly, I ain’t thinking about it ‘til I got hit,” Buxton said. “That was when someone told me. They were like, ‘Oh, you know you’re a triple shy.’ And I was like ‘really?’ The last at-bat it was more, if I get a pitch to do it with, I’ll do it. For me, it was more exciting for me to go to right field twice.”

It was evident the rest of the team fed off Buxton's energy. The mood of the fans and of the players in the dugout during the game and in the clubhouse after the game was noticeably different than in previous games.

It trickled down throughout the lineup. If not for Buxton, Luis Arraez may’ve been the story on offense. He finished 4-for-5 with three RBIs, pushing his batting average up to .364.

“Every time, he brings the energy,” said Arraez, who batted behind Buxton in the No. 2 spot. “I think Byron, he’s an amazing player, amazing person. He’s a leader. So, when I saw Byron running, it made me crazy when he got the base.”

Buxton and Arraez combined to go 8-for-9 with five RBIs. Jeffers also added two hits -- a double and a home run.

The result was Minnesota’s third win in a row, its longest winning streak of the season and first series win. After Friday’s opener was won in part because of a series of chaotic and fortunate bounces, Saturday’s outcome was never in doubt. A win on Sunday would clinch Minnesota’s first series sweep of the season and bring the club back to .500 for the first time since the opening week.

“Awesome team win,” Bundy said. “We have some momentum going finally and you can hear it up there, we’re excited. We’re hoping to keep it going tomorrow.”