KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A handful of extras from the home of the soon-to-be-deposed world champions:
Kelvin Herrera routinely throws the ball more than 100 mph. So why would he throw a far-slower breaking ball to a rookie like Byron Buxton in the ninth inning of a tie game?
Don’t know. But Buxton was expecting it.
“He started me with two breaking balls [at Target Field], and the other night, he started with two breaking balls here,” Buxton said. “I knew I was going to get a curveball sometime in that at-bat, and I just didn’t want to miss it.”
He didn’t. Buxton jumped on the off-speed pitch and drove it into left-center field, an easy double that triggered the Twins’ three-run rally and carried them to victory.
It was a night full of hitting breaking balls hard for Buxton on Thursday; he lined out on a slider in the fifth, and a seventh-inning curve from Royals starter Danny Duffy wound up getting to the center field fence, and Buxton flew to third base. He also didn’t strike out on Thursday, only the second time in his last 23 games that he avoided a whiff.
“It’s good to see him hit off-speed pitches,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. When the Twins got a pair of singles to open the seventh, “we bunted guys over for him to give him a chance to put us on the board, and he stayed back on the pitch. When the ball goes in the gap, it’s entertaining to watch him run.”
The triple might have been even more entertaining, in fact, had the situation been a little different. Buxton reached third base without sliding, and rounded the bag — just in case.
But third base coach Gene Glynn stopped him.
How close was he to trying for his first inside-the-park home run of the season?
“Pretty close,” the rookie admitted. “I took a pretty big turn when I rounded third, just to see where the ball was. Gene was telling me, ‘It would have been nice to send you.’ “
Kyle Gibson allowed only two runs through the first six innings, and had his season ERA back down below 5.00, down to 4.95 in fact. But two singles and a Jarrod Dyson triple scored two more, and Gibson closed his season with a 5.07 ERA to go with his 6-11 record. The victory eventually went to reliever Michael Tonkin, who had not pitched in a game the Twins won since Aug. 2.