Thursday June 16, 2022
0-5 for Buxton, 5-0 for the Twins
I went to the Mariners game yesterday, a Wednesday afternoon getaway game against the Minnesota Twins, expecting not to see Byron Buxton.
You see, whenever I've gone to Twins games in the last few years—in Seattle when they're playing the Mariners, or in Minnesota, which I visit often—no Buxton. He's injured or resting or something. They've been resting him a lot this season, too, hoping he doesn't get injured again, and DHing him even though he's one of the best defensive center-fielders in the game, so I expected more of that. He'd played Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday was a getaway day, so I assumed no Buxton. If I'd checked I would've seen he actually played the entire previous series against the Rays, and the series before that against the Yankees. The last game he'd sat out was Sunday, June 5, against Toronto, which is an eternity in Buxtonville, an unbreakable Lou Gehrig-like string of consecutive games played. The point is I'd been chasing Buxton, one of the most exciting players in the game, for years, and never caught him.
Yesterday I finally caught him. Not only was he in the lineup, but he was leading off and playing center field. I felt like I'd been handed a gift.
And then he went 0-5: groundout, strikeout, groundout, strikeout, groundout. He did make a nice catch in center field early in the game, but he was one of only two Twins who went hitless. I was bummed.
“Are you rooting for the Twins?” my friend Hal asked early on.
He knew I was from Minnesota. And it made me wonder: Am I rooting for the Twins?
“Well, the Twins have a better shot at the postseason,” I said. “They're leading the AL Central, while we're near the bottom of the AL West.” Pause. “I guess I'm rooting for Buxton.” Another pause. “Also Luis Arraez, this kid from Venezuela who's leading the league in hitting. He's kind of a throwback. Hits singles everywhere. I don't get why he's not leading off, to be honest. They got him batting fifth? He doesn't have much pop. You'd think you'd want him to bat before Buxton and Correa and Sanchez so they could drive him in.”
Arraez's position in the batting order was just one of the things I didn't get about the game. I also didn't get why they closed the roof in the middle of it. It wasn't raining and wasn't scheduled to rain. Was it the glare? It was vaguely glarey out. Did someone complain? Some hitter? So they could hit better. If that was the case, it worked—for the Twins. In the top of 7th, shortly after they closed the roof (which always closes to the sound of the Imperial March/Darth Vader theme in my head), the Twins broke up the scoreless game with a two-out single. Starter Marco Gonzalez had begun the 7th, but with one out he gave up a single and a walk, then, I think, he nearly got a double play but just got the force at second. Either way, it was two outs, men on first and third, and they pulled him for Paul Sewald. Who gave up the tie-breaking single to Twins catcher Ryan Jeffers. This was almost a replay of the last M's game I went to, Sunday, May 29 against Houston, when Marco was pitching into the 8th in a 1-1 game, gave up a one-out double, and was pulled for Sewald, who untied the game with a two-out single. Marco got the loss in both; they were his runners.
But it made me wonder why we kept going to Sewald in those situations. (I guess his 0.85 WHIP, Erik.) More, when I got home, it made me wonder why “Inherited Runners Scoring” isn't a more easily findable stat for relief pitchers. It's often the whole ball game.
This game was lost in the 8th when M's manager Scott Servais tapped double-unique reliever Penn Murfee and his sterling 0.79 ERA to keep the game tight. He didn't: single, K (Buxton), RBI double (Correa, forever booed), 5-3, BB (Sanchez), which brought up the oddly placed Luis Arraez. A wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position.
“This isn't good,” I said, apparently rooting for the Mariners at this point. “I saw footage of a game where Arraez just kept hitting singles to left. One of those here, it's 4-0.”
He hit one of those there. It was 4-0. So maybe fifth in the order for him was a smart move?
By the 9th, my main wish was just to see Buxton again. He was due to bat fourth in the inning so the Twins just needed one un-erased baserunner. And they got him and more: walk, double. And Buxton was announced by the Mariners PA announcer Tom Hutyler.
“Wait, Buxton?” I looked at the scoreboard, the runners on base, then back to the scoreboard. “Didn't they just get two guys on? And nobody out? So how could that be Buxton?”
It wasn't. It was the Twins No. 9 hitter Gilberto Celestino.
“That's embarrassing,” I said.
To his credit, Hutyler sounded a bit embarrassed when, after Celestino's RBI groundout, he announced Buxton again—correctly this time. I think it was Hutyler's second slip-up of the game but I don't recall the first. I know my friend Tim has complained about Hutyler in the past, and I guess I have, too. He seems like someone paying nominal attention. I guess in this way he seems like the typical Mariners fan: someone rooting more for hydro races than pennant races. But you want more from your PA guy.
Anyway, that was the final score, 5-0. Nice seeing Buxton, even if he went 0-5. Nice seeing Arraez. Good luck, Twins. It's June 16 and you're the only team this month to beat the New York Yankees, who are on pace to win 120 games.