Byron Buxton’s legs, Twins pitching staff lead team to second straight win
Buxton scored both of Minnesota's runs in their second consecutive shutout win
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It’s always been hard to miss Byron Buxton on the diamond. Whether it’s with his legs, glove or bat, the electrifying center fielder’s play always seems to draw the attention to him.
Add in a pair of customized bright orange Nike cleats that pay homage to his wife, two sons and parents, and now it’s downright impossible to miss him.
Buxton isn’t playing center field for the time being, instead serving as the team’s designated hitter and making his presence known with his bat and speed, instead, scoring both runs in the Twins’ 2-0 victory over the Royals on Saturday afternoon in Kansas City.
“Anything to kind of jump start the team is what I’m trying to do,” Buxton said.
And that includes pushing it on the basepaths.
In the first inning, Buxton lined a double, struck at 105 miles per hour, toward left field. As he dove into second, his sunglasses flew off and he ducked his head in to avoid being hit in the face with the ball which was coming straight at him.
“I like my face a little too much,” he said. “I’d rather eat dirt.”
He hit the ground hard, prompting a visit from manager Rocco Baldelli and trainer Nick Paparesta, whom he told he was fine. Minutes later, he came around to score the first run of the game on Jose Miranda’s RBI single.
He used his blazing speed to help manufacture the Twins’ second run of the game, too.
After blooping a single that fell in front of Royals right fielder MJ Melendez, Buxton advanced to second on a passed ball and raced to third on a ball hit to the shortstop, beating the throw.
“He pushed the envelope a little bit and created something, and once you’re on third base, anything’s possible,” Baldelli said.
Especially if the baserunner on third base is Byron Buxton.
When pinch hitter Kyle Farmer hit a ball to shallow center, his first thought was that there was “no shot,” that the run would score. Then, he remembered who was on third.
“You can hit it anywhere and he’s going to score for you,” Farmer said. “The guy’s an unbelievable athlete. I’ve never played with somebody like that. He’s just a one of one player.”
Buxton decided to take off after realizing that center fielder Kyle Isbel was “a little flat-footed.” His sprint speed on the run home was 30.1 feet per second, which is considered elite. He scored standing up.
That was enough offense for the Twins on a day where Sonny Gray and a group of relievers — Jorge Alcala, Griffin Jax, Caleb Thielbar and Jorge Lopez — combined to keep the Royals scoreless.
The Royals finished the day 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position, leaving eight on base. Most came in Gray’s five-inning start during which he was fighting his command at times — at one point, he walked the bases loaded — but managed to work his way out of it through five scoreless innings.
“That outing does not go well for most guys who feel probably the way Sonny felt today out on the mound, but he did something that great starting pitchers do and he found ways to go out there and not give up any runs through five innings,” Baldelli said.
It marked the first time in franchise history that the Twins have opened the season with back-to-back shutouts, and those pitching performances, combined with the efforts of Buxton in his cleats helped lead the Twins to their second-straight win.
“Maybe my boys put a little magic in them,” Buxton said of the shoes, designed in part by youngsters Brixton and Blaze.
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