KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Byron Buxton slammed into the center field wall on Friday night with an impact almost as loud as the swing of the bat that produced that 400-foot fly ball. But he held on to Melky Cabrera’s blast, even as he crumpled to the ground.
“It wasn’t as bad as it sounded,” Buxton said of the game’s defensive highlight, a long running catch that prevented a two-run fifth inning from turning into a three-run frame or worse. “I just needed a second to get up.”
That’s the sort of play, practically routine for Buxton these days, that makes it easy for manager Paul Molitor to keep penciling his name in the lineup each day, no matter whether he’s surging or waning at the plate.
“He’s fighting it offensively. I know he’s not 100 percent,” Molitor said. “But what he can bring defensively — it’s been that same story all year long. It’s immeasurable for us. I wasn’t sure how far that ball was going to carry. It’s a long way out there, and he had to do everything he could to get there and catch it.”
He’s doing everything he can at the plate, too, but Buxton admitted what Molitor hinted at: His left hand, injured while swinging a bat on Aug. 31, is still bothering him. “It is,” Buxton said of the continued soreness. “I’m just trying to not think about it.”
Buxton was robbed of a hit by a diving Alcides Escobar catch in the ninth inning Friday, giving him an oh-fer night and extending his hitless streak to 0-for-20. “It’s a little tough swinging a bat, but that’s just something I have to deal with,” Buxton said. “I just want to help the team any way I can.”