Twins turn triple play, break away in extra innings to beat White Sox

·4 min read

CHICAGO — Months later, the details to the story are somewhat muddled, but the general narrative is agreed upon. Earlier this season, with Griffin Jax on the mound, Byron Buxton was unable to complete a catch. The ball, Buxton said, touched his glove, and if a ball touches his glove, he feels like he should be catching it.

The game was against Detroit, one said. Cleveland, the other said. Either way, after the game, in the early hours of the morning, Buxton texted Jax to apologize.

Incredulous, Jax responded.

“I texted him right back and said, ‘Dude, you know how much of a blessing it is for us to have Byron Buxton in center field? I will take whatever you give us that day, no matter what,’” Jax said. “I texted him, I said, ‘I know there’s going to be a play later in the season where you’re going to save my (butt).’”

That day was Monday, when Buxton started a triple play to bail Jax and the Twins out of a seventh inning that looked as if it was going sideways. Instead, the triple play helped keep the Twins in a game that they eventually beat the White Sox in 6-3 in 10 innings at Guaranteed Rate Field.

The triple play — which went 8-5 — was the first of its kind in Major League Baseball history, one so odd that it took the players on the field, Buxton included, a minute to realize what was going on.

It was so odd that minutes after the game, Twins (46-37) starting pitcher Dylan Bundy, who gave up one run in five innings of work, quipped that he saw it on television and still didn’t understand it, so he would need to either rewatch it or have it explained to him.

With a pair of runners on first and second — the White Sox (38-40) had evened the score earlier in the inning — left fielder A.J. Pollock sent a ball deep to center field.

Perhaps another center fielder wouldn’t have tracked it down. But Buxton covered a fair amount of ground, racing back and getting ahold of the ball just before reaching the wall. His momentum carried him toward the fence, which he pushed off of, helping him get a little extra on his throw back to the infield.

“With Buck, you’ve got to wait until the end (to run),” third baseman Gio Urshela said. “Buck can go, go, go and it’s impressive how he plays the outfield.”

At that point, he fired toward Urshela, who caught Yoán Moncada, who had started the play on first base, between second and third base and placed a tag on him. Adam Engel, who had been on second, was even further away from second base, and when Urshela stepped on second base, he, too, was retired.

Just for good measure, Urshela then threw to first base.

“It’s a great play by Buck,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “But also, when things get really weird on the bases, sometimes people aren’t sure what to do. That’s not crazy to say. But being able to just get the ball and start tagging people and tagging bases and staying composed, finishing the play matters too. Great play, game-changing type of situation for us.”

Between that play and his two-run home run in the fifth inning, which had given the Twins a lead at the time, the Twins center fielder more than did his part on Monday.

And in the 10th inning, the Twins got some offensive support from his teammates.

Luis Arraez, who finished the day with three hits (two were doubles), singled home the automatic runner to give the Twins the lead back. Jorge Polanco later followed with a sacrifice fly and Alex Kirilloff’s two-run single gave the Twins a cushion before Jhoan Duran came in to lock down the save.

The late offense capped a day when Buxton again starred. And for his efforts, an appreciative Jax — a couple months later — reminded him that sometime down the road, he just knew the center fielder was going to bail him out.

“First thing I said to him when I came in the dugout,” Jax said.