DETROIT – Byron Buxton said Kurt Suzuki had a hand in him getting his first major league home run.
"Suzuki just said, 'Go up there and get your first one,' " Buxton said. "I just went up there and tried to get a good pitch to hit and put a good swing on it."
And he did, drilling a 96-mile-per-hour fastball from Jose Valdez into the seats in left in the eighth inning for his first home run in 129 major league plate appearances during the Twins' 7-1 rout of the Tigers on Sunday. Teammates tried to give him the silent treatment once he returned to the dugout, but he didn't care, slapping some players' heads before hugging Eduardo Escobar.
"When you make contact like that, you barely feel yourself swinging," said Buxton, who was 2-for-4 with a home run, double and two RBI in his first start since Sept. 19. "I'm just glad I got that out of the way and I try to keep moving forward."
It wasn't the only first Sunday.Miguel Sano hit the first triple of his career when he lined a pitch into the right-center gap in the ninth inning. Sano, who has been nursing a sore hamstring, twice stumbled slightly but was safe.
"I don't know what odds were higher, Buxton's first homer or Sano's first triple," manager Paul Molitor said. "We got them both out of the way."
That kept the inning alive, and Max Kepler was able to make his major league debut. Pinch hitting for Torii Hunter, the Twins Minor League Player of the Year struck out against lefthander Tom Gorzelanny and his funky breaking ball.
"It was awesome," Kepler said of his first at-bat. "I was too swing-happy."
He took over in right field and caught the final out of the game.
"When they went up 4-0, people were giving me the eye that I might get in sooner than the ninth," Kepler said. "I was in the cage warming up most of the game, trying to get ready."
Suzuki to rest?
Molitor plans to give Suzuki a day off Monday at Cleveland, but will he go through with it?
Suzuki had an RBI single in the Twins' six-run second inning Sunday. It came a day after he had three hits and looked nimble on his feet while pouncing on two bunts against the Tigers.
Managers have to watch out for their catchers, who take abuse all season long. In the past week, Suzuki was hit directly in the facemask with a foul tip, then on the hand by a backswing. Sunday, a foul tip deflected off the left edge of his mask. The next pitch was fouled off his right shoulder.
The tools of ignorance don't eliminate pain.
Suzuki admits he's not 100 percent, but who is in late September?
"He said he doesn't want to kill me," Suzuki said. "I told him I'll do what you need me to do. If you need me to go, I'll go. If you think a day off will be good for the team, he's the boss. He calls the shots."
Suzuki is fourth in the majors in games played by a catcher, But the Twins don't have an experienced backup and are in a battle for the postseason. That would suggest that Suzuki will grind through the rest of the schedule. But the foul balls he took Sunday might move Molitor to give him a break.
"He's been a warrior," Molitor said.
Molitor juggled the lineup, partly because of a bug that has affected a handful of players in the clubhouse. That included third baseman Trevor Plouffe, who felt better Sunday but still was kept out of the lineup.
Eddie Rosario was not among the ailing players. He was just given the day off.