Bubble gum and a Gatorade shower was waiting on “Buck” when he stepped on home plate.
Another Minnesota Twin got his first Major League Baseball walkoff home run. This time the hero was centerfielder Byron Buxton. His clutch hit lifted Twins to a 3-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays Thursday night, September 14, home at Target Field.
While this may not be your typical win, the Twins have seemed to find a streak where they find ways to win whether its a walkoff hit by pitch that Max Kepler took against the Chicago White Sox, the 16-0 shutout, like Tuesday against San Diego Padres, or Wednesday night where Eddie Rosario walked off in the 10th inning with a two-run homer.
Manager Paul Molitor feels a certain way about being in these close game situations.
“They’re fun and they’re exciting. They take a lot out of you, the back-and-forth and the missed opportunities,” Molitor said. “You never know what one pitch may swing the game one direction or another.”
That pitch came in the ninth inning of Thursday’s game.
On top 2-1, Twins were one out away from stretching their winning streak to three. Matt Belisle came in to close. He first struck out Blue Jays Richard Urena. Then the next out was a groundout by Josh Donaldson. With fans standing on their feet, anticipating an out to complete a 1-2-3 inning to lift the Twins to a three game winning streak, Belisle’s slider became that one pitched that swung the game. Justin Smoak smacked it for a game tying home run. Cheers turned to boo’s afterwards for Belisle.
“You are one out away from having a 2-1 victory and then having to scramble to find a way to win,” Molitor said.
A pop fly out to center field, hit by Jose Bautista, wrapped up the top of the ninth, tied at 2. Belisle didn’t get the out to get the Twins the immediate win but he did suppress the damage after surrendering the game-tying home run.
“It’s not easy to give up a home run with two outs in the ninth and even get the next guy out,” Molitor said.
Much like the night before, the game would be deadlocked until the bottom of the 10th inning with two outs. With Mark Morrison’s “Return of the Mack” playing while Buxton was stepping up to the plate, Molitor was hoping “the mack” could just squeak out a single.
“I was hoping Buck could get on base and steal second and maybe we could get a single,” Molitor said.
Luis Santos pitching that inning was on his way to a 1-2-3 inning as he forced a Jorge Polanco pop out and struck out Eduardo Escobar. But Buxton wasn’t fazed. He saw the pitch and swung. And this turned out to be that pitch that swung the games results in the Twins favor. A blast to left-centerfield. Buxton’s 15th home run this season.
“He left a pitch up in the zone that I could handle,” Buxton told Fox Sports North postgame. “It’s incredible. Anyway that we can get a win, you know, that’s what we try do.”
Twins are now 77-69 and placed at second in the American League wild card, trailing New York Yankees three games. Twins are so far fending off five teams in the hunt with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim the closest behind at 2.5 games back.
While the Twins are young, players like Buxton is up for the challenge to push the Twins in the playoffs.
“He’s (Buxton) found a way to compete each and every night and no complaints,” Molitor said of the 23-year-old. “And tonight he walks off the games hero.”
The way they’ve been playing certainly has starting pitcher Jose Berrios fired up.
“It’s fun to watch this team play the way they are doing. Let’s keep fighting boyes ” Berrios posted on Twitter.