Byron Buxton is at the top of the Twins’ lineup for today’s series finale with the White Sox, but it’s not really because manager Paul Molitor believes he has much of an advantage against Chicago’s ace, Chris Sale. Was there any hesitation in returning Buxton to the leadoff spot? “Sure there was,” Molitor said. “There was plenty of it.”
But he made the call because there really aren’t many good options when you’re facing one of baseball’s hottest pitchers.
“He’s going to have his hands full, but so are all the other eight guys,” Molitor said of the rookie outfielder. “Does he have less of a chance than someone else? i I don’t really think so, because it’s Sale.”
Good point. The White Sox lefthander is on a roll, and might be the best pitcher in the American League at the moment. In his last five starts, Sale has allowed a total of three runs — that’s an 0.72 ERA — and struck out at least 12 in each, tying a major-league record. He has 65 strikeouts (and only six walks) in five games.
Still, the Twins have hit three of the seven home runs Sale has allowed this season, and beaten him twice.
“You’re mindful that that lineup had Dozier at the top, when we were able to win those couple of games,” Molitor said. “But other people have changed since then, how they’re swinging, so I was just looking for that thickness in the middle. And giving Buxton a chance to go up there, hopefully [he’ll] find a way to get on base a couple of times.”
Sale will be opposed by Phil Hughes, who pitched one of his best games of the season last Friday in allowing only one run in eight innings against the Cubs.
Here are today’s lineups for the finale of the eight-game homestand, in which the Twins have gone 4-3 so far: