NEW YORK – Byron Buxton timed his jump as Todd Frazier’s long fly ball descended, so he wouldn’t run headlong into the wall. He figured that was the best way to make the catch while avoiding injury.
He was wrong.
“I felt a little bit right away, when I was on the ground. I kind of got twisted a little bit,” Buxton said of the collision that eventually knocked him out of Tuesday’s 8-4 playoff loss to the Yankees. “But it’s such a big game, a game I want to be a part of, I was going to play through it. And I couldn’t do it.”
He came to bat in the next inning and beat out what could have been a double-play grounder, driving in a run with his speed. But the pain was growing then, too. And when the third inning ended, he told the trainers he was in pain.
“I took a couple Tylenol to see if that would help, and [the trainers] told me to go to the [batting] cage,” Buxton said. “I took a swing, and a sharp pain just ran through my back. That was kind of it. … It just kept getting worse.”
Molitor was told Buxton was hurting, and he was removed for Zack Granite. The emotional pain was soon just as big as the physical.
“It’s one of the toughest things that can happen,” Buxton said. “You always want to be out there battling and competing with your brothers. … It hurts a lot.”
Granite singled in his first career postseason at-bat, and he would have been 2-for-2 but for an odd mistake. The rookie outfielder hit a chopper to first baseman Greg Bird with one out in the eighth.
Pitcher Tommy Kahnle raced over to cover the base but bobbled Bird’s throw just as Granite arrived. When happened next will bother Granite for a while.
“I felt his momentum was taking [Kahnle] through the bag, and I was afraid I was going to step on him. And I just missed the base” with an extra-long stride, Granite said. “It was stupid. I should have stepped on him.”
Granite quickly realized his mistake and turned around to return to the bag. But second baseman Starlin Castro alertly picked up the ball and tagged Granite as he walked by. Kahnle, who turned his back in frustration at missing the throw, turned around to discover the Yankees had recorded the out anyway.
“I’ve never done anything like that in my life,” Granite said. “It was freakish.”
Miguel Sano went into the indoor cages in Yankee Stadium on Monday to get some swings in, and the Twins realized their slugging third baseman was not ready to play in the biggest game of the year.
So the club submitted its roster for the wild-card game without Sano, who hasn’t completely healed from a stress reaction in his left shin on Aug. 18.
“I was still open-minded, despite the fact I knew Sunday was not a good day, that he might be available in one at-bat, one swing,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “He went to the cage before we took the field [Monday] and was just having trouble bracing on his front side and couldn’t get any leverage on his swing.
“The persistent discomfort he is dealing with is not conducive to him contributing. I give him credit for trying to cram.”
Sano appeared in the final three games of the regular season, which was his first action since Aug, 19. He went 1-for-8 with three strikeouts, looking rusty at the plate.
“He was emotional when I talked to him,” Molitor said. “I’m trying to understand and be empathetic to a guy who desperately wants to play and be a part of this. I’m sure he is frustrated. It gets taken away from you and the answers are hard to come by. I think it has been hard for him.”