MINNEAPOLIS - Byron Buxton clobbered a Marco Gonzales pitch nearly 400 feet into the upper deck in left field Thursday, giving the Minnesota Twins a 5-1 lead in the fifth inning.
After connecting, he briefly posed for the shot, trotted down the first base line and gave his dugout a look. He rounded the bases, and the 9,675 fans in attendance came to their feet, chanting "MVP!" While seven games into the season is a bit early for that, the point remains.
Buxton had three hits Thursday, including his first single of the season. He scored twice, and had one RBI in a 10-2 victory. Buxton has missed one game due to an illness not related to COVID-19, and in six games, has eight hits in 19 at-bats. He leads the Twins with four homers, and has three doubles. Seven of his eight hits have gone for extra bases.
Thursday marked the first time for Buxton in the clean-up spot in the batting order, and he made the most of it.
"Buck brings an energy to what we do. It's a lot of how he handles himself," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said after Thursday’s win. "He's not a guy that is looking for that attention in any way, really, for himself. He's looking to win a baseball game and do it for his teammates."
He’s batted lead-off, he’s moved down to No. 9 in the order to put less pressure on himself offensively. He was in the heart of the Twins’ order on Thursday, and he’s making his presence known for more than stellar defense. Back on April 1, Buxton lauched a pitch 456 feet at Milwaukee for the longest home run of his career. Thursday's shot wasn't as far, but it was just as impressive.
"It’s just fun being in the lineup. There’s not no weak spot, one through nine, and anybody you bring in off the bench can do the same thing. You got those type of weapons on the bench and on the field, it tends to lead to a lot of fun and a lot of wins," Buxton told Bally Sports North postgame Thursday.
Buxton said he heard the Target Field faithful chanting "MVP" after his home run. He also doubled Thursday, and while it’s just seven games in, Buxton is hitting .421 with a ridiculous 1.687 on base plus slugging percentage.
"It’s cool. Obviously I’ve got to keep doing what I’m doing. But for me, it’s whatever I can do to get our team wins and get us to the World Series and get that ring, that’s the biggest goal for us," Buxton said.
When he’s healthy, which hasn’t come a lot in his early career with the Twins, he’s one of the most important players on the roster.
Buxton’s injury history is well-chronicled, and it’s largely attributed to his aggressive play in the outfield. He’s gotten concussions, even had a scare during summer Spring Training last year. He’ll crash against the wall to make catches, he’ll dive and he’ll chase down fly balls most other outfielders have no chance at.
He’s a difference-maker in center field on defense, and when he can hit like he has through six games, maybe those "MVP" chants aren’t so overblown. The Twins are off to a 5-2 start, and Buxton's play has a lot to do with it.