The Twins dugout is an excitable place when Byron Buxton is at the plate, but the various hoot-and-howlers have standards, too. As Buxton learned the hard way.
So when he reached third base Sunday after smacking a line drive to the wall and turning it into a run-scoring triple for the second day in a row, Buxton faced the dugout and pumped his fist straight into the air, as though triggering a train whistle.
"That's my thing," Buxton explained after the Twins' 6-3 victory over Colorado at Target Field. "They got on me yesterday because I didn't do it," choosing instead to beating his chest and roaring with joy.
Yes, after four days of being hobbled by a sore knee, Buxton is already back to having such an impact on games, the team's internal debate centers around his celebration. Such is the effect that a 3-for-3 day, with three runs scored and one driven in, will have on a buoyant team as it prepares for a potentially crucial stretch of its schedule.
"When he opens it up, it's fun to watch. His stride is really something," manager Rocco Baldelli said. "His legs have been a difference maker."
So was this weekend. Thanks to Buxton igniting the offense by reaching base four times, the Twins widened their AL Central lead by shutting down the Rockies in the late innings yet again.
They will try to defend that lead, now two games over the Guardians, during five potentially significant games in Cleveland beginning Monday night. Those games take on a different tenor after the Twins took two out of three games this series from the Rockies, while the Guardians were swept at home by the Red Sox.
"It's going to be a hell of a series," said Tyler Duffey, who contributed a scoreless eighth inning Sunday. "Five [games] in four days, everybody is going to get a look at everybody, good and bad. They're going to be battles. Hopefully we can go in and make a statement early."
That's what they did in the homestand finale, stringing together a Buxton walk and four line-drive singles to score three times, bringing their MLB-leading season total to 58 first-inning runs. Buxton's second-inning triple drove in another run, and he came home on a sacrifice fly, making Joe Ryan's life considerably easier.
"That was huge early on," said Ryan, who battled his way through five sloppy innings, giving up at least one hit in each and a run in three. "They were getting some good bat-to-ball today, so that was frustrating at times. I didn't have that zip, I guess, the buzz. But the offense [and] defense made it a lot easier."
So did the bullpen, which had had a remarkable four days, after blowing back-to-back leads to Cleveland earlier in the homestand. The performances aren't always clean, they aren't always easy — the first three hitters against lefty Caleb Thielbar reached base, for instance, but he and Emilio Pagan wriggled out of the jam — but Twins relievers backed up Ryan with four scoreless innings and have put up 14 consecutive zeroes over the past four games.
"It's been great. It was fun watching Duffey today — his slider looked wicked," Ryan said. "Pagan coming in there was huge, and just electric with that slider. And [Jhoan] Duran? A 100-mph splitter! That has to be the hardest splitter of all time."
It was certainly enough to earn Duran his fifth save in five attempts, giving the Twins momentum as they boarded a flight to Ohio. All that's left is a committee meeting to determine what gesture Buxton should make if he triples again on Monday.
"I'm doing what they tell me!" he promised.