Some extras from the Twins’ first three-game winning streak of June:
Byron Buxton hasn’t had many opportunities lately to show off his defense, but he made a highlight-worthy catch on Wednesday. With two outs in the eighth inning, Phillies pinch-hitter Tyler Goeddel clobbered a pitch from Fernando Abad to straightaway center field, and it appeared headed for the batter’s eye.
Buxton streaked over from about 100 feet away and leaped in the air just as he reached the wall. The rookie outfielder grabbed the ball out of the air and held tight as his body crashed into the padding.
“I knew I was getting close to it. I said in my head, ‘Just hold on to the ball.’ I knew I was going to hit it pretty hard,” Buxton said. “I try not to think about the wall too much. I know it’s there, but I really don’t think about it when I’m running.”
He listens for his teammates, actually, who can yell a warning if he’s going too fast. Max Kepler, running over from right field, let him know he was going to have room to make the catch.
“All of us [outfielders] have good connections out there,” Buxton said. “We help each other out, especially when you get near the wall.”
Manager Paul Molitor was just glad Buxton was still out there to make that play. He nearly wasn’t.
“He made me glad I didn’t pinch-hit for him the inning before,” Molitor said. “Because you want to have his defense.”
It had been more than a year, back to June 17, 2015, since any Twins reliever had retired more than three batters to earn a save. Brandon Kintzler broke that streak on Sunday by retiring four Yankees in the Twins’ 7-4 victory.
And now, in yet another example of the crazy unpredictability of baseball, the Twins have had three extra-length saves in a row.
Kintzler reprised his four-out save in Tuesday’s 14-10 win over the Phillies, and Fernando Abad did the honors on Wednesday, retiring all four batters he faced.
It’s the first save of Abad’s major-league career, covering 288 games over seven seasons.
“He’s pitched a lot of games, he’s pitched well, and he got a chance to get the last four outs today,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “He did it cleanly.”
That allowed Molitor to give Kintzler a night off, sort of. He still had his new kinda-sorta closer warm up, just in case Abad got tripped up and the middle of the Philadelphia lineup got to the plate.
Never happened, though. Abad retired Goeddel on the ball that Buxton caught, then needed only nine pitches to induce three straight Phillies to hit the ball to Eduardo Escobar at short. Abad became the third Twins pitcher to earn a save this season.
Speaking of weird pitching stats: Remember how Kevin Jepsen was credited with victories in back-to-back games in April, and led the Twins in wins for about a month? Ricky Nolasco finally won a third game 10 days ago in Anaheim to take over the Twins’ team lead.
He’s got company, though, and once again, it’s a reliever. Taylor Rogers pitched a scoreless seventh inning in relief of Kyle Gibson, and when Trevor Plouffe and Escobar singled in the bottom of the inning, and Kepler lifted a sacrifice fly, the Twins had the lead for good.
And Rogers got the credit, at least in the official statistics.
The rookie lefthander is 3-0 on the season, tying him for the team lead, and he pitched exactly four innings to earn them. Yep, wins — and relief wins in particular — don’t mean much. Still, Rogers has become a valuable middle-inning arm for Molitor, and while his ERA is 4.12, that’s largely the product of one ugly outing in Anaheim, when he allowed four runs and recorded just two outs. His ERA in his other 17 outings? 2.37.
Rogers’ spot atop the pitching stats might not last long. Nolasco pitches Thursday against the Phillies, a team that hasn’t looked good in the first two games of the series.
Molitor was impressed by Kepler’s fifth-inning single up the middle that drove in Escobar with the tying run: “To stay in the middle of the field there with the situation, with a man on third and less than two outs and they’re conceding a run, it’s something we’ve had trouble doing. It’s kind of a simple thing, and you get rewarded with a hit.”