PITTSBURGH – As far as Byron Buxton knows, he capped the Twins’ rally from a five-run deficit Monday by launching a triple over left fielder Adam Frazier’s head. What happened next, he’s heard only second-hand.
“One hundred percent — in my head, I was already thinking triple, I can’t even lie,” Buxton said about his sizzling sixth-inning liner toward the left-field wall. “Once I made contact, I didn’t even watch, I was running so hard. I didn’t know what happened until the crowd [cheered].”
The cheers were for Frazier, who zigged one way, zagged another, and finally lunged as the ball passed over his head, snagging it for an inning- ending, lead-preserving out in the Pirates’ 5-4 victory.
“It was a good at-bat. He fought off some good pitches, then got a breaking ball up where he could handle it,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “It was hooking, but the guy made a nice play. I’m sure they felt a little bit fortunate.”
And the Twins felt a little unlucky.
“We all thought it was a for-sure double,” said Brian Dozier, who had sparked the comeback with a home run. Frazier “made a really good play on it. That was probably the play of the game.”
Had the ball carried another few inches, the play before it may have been the memorable one. Buxton reached for a breaking ball from righthander Dovydas Neverauskas and hit a high popup toward the Pirates dugout. Third baseman Colin Moran and catcher Francisco Cervelli jogged over, looked at each other — and let the ball drop between them.
“I got a second chance,” Buxton said. “I thought the baseball gods were helping me.”
Robbie Grossman, born in San Diego and raised in southern Texas, grumbled as he pulled a facemask over his head. “I never even wore long sleeves until I turned pro,” he joked.
Yes, the Twins are steeling themselves for some April baseball, and they know the worst is still to come. Baltimore was only chilly, but the temperature was 40 degrees during Monday’s game in PNC Park, and it won’t be much warmer for a night game Wednesday.
And then they go home.
The Twins are hoping for mid-30s for first pitch at Thursday’s home opener, and that might be the warmest, driest day of the weekend series with Seattle.
“It going to be rough,” Molitor said. “It has an effect. People think about it, talk about it. We have to [remind the players] that both teams have to play in it, and amongst everything we do here, there’s a mental toughness component, too. That means having to deal with various adversities that come your way, including trying to perform a very difficult game when conditions are frigid.”
One suggestion he might make, though: Limit the musicians to just one number.
The teams were lined up on the baselines for Pittsburgh’s Opening Day festivities, which included a cello quartet performing the national anthem. But the cellists first played an extended version of “God Bless America” that the players weren’t expecting.
“We got a two-for-one special,” Dozier joked.
The music was lovely, the players said — but a little numbing.
Duke does his duty
Zach Duke got a mixed reaction when he was announced in a stadium where he spent the first six seasons of his career, and he proceeded to do what he always does in Pittsburgh: Get the Pirates out. Duke walked two but struck out two, and extended his streak to 11 scoreless innings in his former home park as a visitor.