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Buxton’s 98.6-mph laser a game saver 

Harper, Morin clutch out of the bullpen
@dohyoungpark
May 15, 2019

MINNEAPOLIS -- Byron Buxton’s throw home to cut down Shohei Ohtani preserved Minnesota’s one-run lead in the eighth inning, and helped the Twins’ bullpen pull off its third escape in Minnesota’s 4-3 victory over the Angels on Tuesday night. But the heroics came at a steep cost, as catcher Mitch

MINNEAPOLIS -- Byron Buxton’s throw home to cut down Shohei Ohtani preserved Minnesota’s one-run lead in the eighth inning, and helped the Twins’ bullpen pull off its third escape in Minnesota’s 4-3 victory over the Angels on Tuesday night.

But the heroics came at a steep cost, as catcher Mitch Garver was removed from the game after Ohtani slid into Garver’s left leg as he blocked the plate in the bottom half of the inning. The initial evaluation revealed a high ankle sprain for Garver, who will be further examined on Wednesday.

Ohtani, who had already made a key out on the basepaths in the sixth inning, had singled before Albert Pujols also poked a single to right. Brian Goodwin followed with a line-drive single to center field, which Buxton initially charged but played on a hop. He appeared to slightly double-clutch the ball before he uncorked a 98.6-mph throw home for his third outfield assist of the season.

Box score

“I think at one point in flight, maybe [Buxton] might have thought he was going to catch it but didn't, and that's actually a difficult and awkward play when the ball lands in between on you because it stops your momentum from going forward,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Somehow, he was able to collect himself and make a great throw to the plate.”

Blake Parker, who earned his seventh save of the season after Buxton’s clutch throw and a scoreless ninth inning, raised his glove to acknowledge Buxton as he walked off the field.

“His athleticism is off the charts,” Parker said. “I got back where I needed to be to back up the base, and I saw the throw right on line and I was watching the runner the whole time. Byron obviously has a very, very strong arm. That throw was absolutely on the money.”

Buxton’s throw wouldn’t have saved the game had it not been for two of the Twins’ less-experienced pitchers collecting a pair of clutch outs in the sixth and seventh.

Though starter Kyle Gibson breezed through five scoreless innings, allowing only two hits, the right-hander ran into trouble in the sixth. With the Twins up 4-0, five of the six Angels hitters that Gibson faced reached base, including an RBI double by David Fletcher and an RBI single by Ohtani.

Clinging to a one-run lead, the Twins got a gift out when Ohtani was thrown out while trying to advance to third on a single, which opened the door for Ryne Harper to induce a flyout from Albert Pujols to get out of the jam. Harper’s one-inning outing marked his eighth consecutive scoreless appearance.

Though Harper and Tyler Duffey allowed a pair of singles in the seventh, Mike Morin, whose contract was selected from Triple-A Rochester on May 2, induced a forceout from Tommy La Stella to again preserve the lead.

“It’s great for our bullpen as a whole to see some guys that are being [used] in some tough spots, and going out there and getting the job done,” Baldelli said. “For [Harper and Morin] as individuals, those are huge confidence builders. I know they believe in themselves. These are two guys that truly do believe in themselves, but to go out there and actually do it is another thing, and they did it.”

Though the Twins have a high-leverage core of Parker, Taylor Rogers, Trevor Hildenberger and Trevor May that they have turned to often through the early part of the season, Baldelli had spoken before the game about the importance of introducing the other relievers to those situations as well to help them adjust.

It didn’t take long for the Twins to again see that come into play.

“We're not too worried about when any of those guys come in, whether it's closing, or sixth inning with two guys on in a jam and a one-run lead,” Gibson said. “We're in a pretty unique situation where we've got a lot of guys who can handle leverage."

Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.