Kirilloff caps walk-off comeback after Buxton's clutch homer

Twins celebrate pair of season firsts after tallying five runs in final three frames against Sox

April 24th, 2024

MINNEAPOLIS -- It took a while for to finally go deep this season, but when he did, he really made it count.

The Twins’ offense has been late-arriving this season in the big picture, to say the least, and that was the case on a smaller scale on Tuesday night -- but the late surge was still enough.

Buxton came through with a game-tying blast to lead off the ninth inning before roped a walk-off single to cap a furious late comeback in a 6-5 victory over the White Sox at Target Field.

Kirilloff ecstatically ran around the infield dirt for what seemed like eons as his teammates trailed behind him with a celebratory bubble gum bucket shower, while Buxton pumped his fist and roared as he ran around the bases on his homer -- clear signs of how meaningful this fight and this win was for a team that, again, needed a night like this.

“We needed to win a game that was like today’s game,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “We needed to come back, make things happen. We know we can do that. But you have to show yourself you can do it. You have to show yourself today and hopefully again at some point soon.

“Today was a really good step.”

Monday night, it was a needed blowout win, 7-0, that reminded a deeply struggling offense what it felt like to string together good at-bats and make solid contact. Tuesday night, the Twins had to fight back with their backs against the wall, and just find a way to keep the line moving.

“Obviously, we've been putting in the work to snatch games like that, just pushing the line down to the next guy late in games like that, and those little bitty wins are the ones that get us back on track and get us going,” Buxton said.

Following a slow start to the season, Buxton has been an important part of the Twins’ offense finding signs of life of late in the absence of Carlos Correa and Royce Lewis. Coupled with his first-inning double down the right-field line and his seventh-inning single up the middle, Buxton’s game-tying blast gave him six extra-base hits in his past seven games.

After Buxton’s 110.5 mph rope inside the left-field foul pole off White Sox reliever Steven Wilson, the Twins carried the momentum with Carlos Santana’s one-out walk and Ryan Jeffers’ pinch-hit, bloop double just inside the left-field line.

Though Kirilloff had struck out in his first four plate appearances, he got a hold of a 3-2 fastball and punched it through the right side of the infield at 100.6 mph to give Minnesota its first walk-off win of the season. It marked the second walk-off of Kirilloff’s career, and his first since May 10, 2023, when he walked off the Padres.

“Inside him, there’s just a hitter, someone who’s always been a hitter, that has good instincts for hitting,” Baldelli said. “When he’s got a bat in his hands, he’s very, very comfortable and at home. He knows what to do. He doesn’t let things get in his mind, go to his head, bother him.”

Though these two offensive performances have come at the expense of the now 3-20 White Sox, they do represent incremental progress amid a season that had been almost entirely devoid of such highlights. Multiple hitters had been feeling the frustration to the point that they’d been taking swings in the cages and diving into at-bats long after their loss to the Tigers on Sunday.

The return of Max Kepler seems to have provided a spark, as he knocked another RBI single in the first inning to put the Twins on top early for the second time in as many days since his return from the IL. Trevor Larnach, now healthy from turf toe, continued his hot start with a 433-foot, two-run blast in the eighth inning that kept Minnesota within striking distance.

As methodically as the Twins chipped away at the White Sox by scoring five runs in the final three innings, the frustration and pressure seem to be eroding a bit in the clubhouse -- to the point where even the stoic Kirilloff cracked a joke about why he was running so much after busting out of his 0-for-4, four-strikeout performance with the game-winner.

“My legs were fresh from not running during the game, so I wanted to use them,” Kirilloff said.