Hot hand Buxton joins Twins' 5-HR attack

September 13th, 2020

MINNEAPOLIS -- stayed hot -- and the Twins stayed hot with him.

For the second straight game, the bottom of the lineup gave Minnesota all of its production against a tough Cleveland starter, and Buxton’s big bat was central to both performances. A day after felling Shane Bieber with two homers, the Twins clubbed three against Zach Plesac en route a season-high five more on Saturday night, including another two-run blast by Buxton, in an 8-4 victory at Target Field.

Think the Twins missed Buxton while he sat for 11 games with left shoulder inflammation? The victory Saturday improved the Twins to 8-0 with their starting center fielder in the game since his return to the roster on Sept. 1. He’s hitting .320/.320/.720 with three homers in that span.

“He, of course, enhances everything that we do,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “We talk about some guys just giving the people around them confidence. Some guys just have ways of being able to do those things that directly impact the outcome of the game. He just does that. We’ve seen it … since he’s been back.”

Buxton has two homers in this important series against Cleveland as the Twins jostle for position in a crowded American League Central. Buxton’s homer Saturday off Plesac came in the bottom of the fourth inning, giving the Twins an immediate answer after Cleveland scored a pair in the top of the frame off , who allowed two runs in five innings. It was Buxton’s eighth homer of the year in 29 games.

As Buxton has gone, the others have followed. A Twins lineup that slumbered for much of the season woke up in a big way in a big game.

and homered back to back off Plesac in the second inning to spot the Twins a 3-0 lead. Gonzalez’s blast to the upper deck in right field was his first since Aug. 19, while Astudillo’s first big fly of 2020 was a low line drive with a launch angle of 16 degrees, tied for the Majors’ lowest non-inside-the-park homer of the season.

Higher in the batting order, and gave the Twins another pair of back-to-back home runs when each hit a towering shot off reliever Nick Wittgren in the eighth for a trio of insurance runs.

“If you think about a 162-game season, right now is basically where we'd probably be in the first two or three months of the regular season, like 100-plus at-bats,” Rosario said. “That's when everyone starts warming up for a regular season, for 162.

“Obviously, we're in the middle of this pandemic-shortened season, so right now is when everybody in the regular season starts warming up, so I think everybody's clicking together."

Saturday marked the second time in franchise history that the Twins went back to back twice in one game. The only other time it happened was on June 9, 1966, when Rich Rollins and hit consecutive blasts before , and went back to back to back.

All of Buxton’s contributions to the Twins since his return -- the robbed home run, the walk-off infield hit, the key homers -- likely loomed even larger as the Twins’ dugout held its breath when the center fielder hit the irregular wall in left-center field at an awkward angle on Jordan Luplow’s sixth-inning RBI triple and was slow to get up. Luckily for Buxton and the Twins, he remained in the game after catching his breath without requiring an examination.

With that in mind, Rosario said he went up to Buxton after that attempt at the wall and gave him a short pep talk: “We're winning right now,” Rosario told Buxton. “We all know what you're capable of. We know you can go out there and get any ball out there.”

“I told him to take it a little bit easy, because we want him in the game,” Rosario said. “We know we need him in the game, because he's able to do those defensive plays any time he wants to. When I saw him on the [ground], I got a little scared because I thought he was hurt, and that's why I went to help him up."

The Twins need Buxton. This recent stretch has been another reminder of why.