Leather goods: Twins outfield comes up big

Buxton, Kepler, Rosario all make great catches in win over White Sox

Leather goods: Twins outfield comes up big

CHICAGO -- A young and athletic outfield featuring Byron Buxton, Max Kepler and Eddie Rosario came up with its own slogan, saying nothing falls but raindrops.

There were no raindrops at Guaranteed Rate Field on Friday night, but nothing else seemed to fall in either, as all three made impressive defensive plays to help back right-hander Phil Hughes in a 3-1 win that helped the Twins to a 4-0 start for the first time since 1987. Buxton's defensive presence was felt immediately with a pair of impressive catches at the wall in the first inning to rob Tyler Saladino and Cody Asche of extra bases.

"That was a game-saver there in the first," Hughes said. "A couple catches that made that inning not as bad as it could've been. That was the turning point there."

Saladino crushed an 0-1 cutter a projected 396 feet, but Buxton raced back to make a diving catch for the first out of the game. Saladino's drive had a catch probability of 76 percent, making it a two-star play, per Statcast™. Buxton had 6.1 seconds to cover 114 feet on the play.

"That's going to happen -- that guy can fly, cover ground," Saladino said. "Credit to him getting there to those balls."

Buxton's second catch was even better, and likely saved two runs, as Asche's ball had a catch probability of 63 percent, making it a three-star play. Buxton had 5.1 seconds to go 92 feet and covered 95 feet.

Buxton takes away extra-base hit

"They were pretty tough catches but I'm just trying to do what I gotta do to help us out," Buxton said. "I'm not swinging the bat well, so I'm just trying to take away as many hits as I can. The second one was a little trickier."

Kepler actually made the best play of the game, statistically, and his catch saved at least one run, and potentially more, with the speedy Tim Anderson lacing a sinking liner down the right-field line. Kepler raced 76 feet in 4.5 seconds for a 58 percent catch probability, making it a three-star play.

"That ball was tailing away from him but he ran hard and made a great play," Hughes said. "I was helped by tremendous defense tonight."

Kepler's diving grab

For context, Buxton and Kepler both make three-star plays look routine, as Buxton was 19-for-21 on three-star opportunities last year and Kepler was 13-for-17.

Rosario also helped Hughes with a leaping catch at the warning track on a deep drive from Todd Frazier to end the sixth, although the ball hung up in the air, giving Rosario plenty of time to make the play.

Rosario's leaping grab

"All the outfielders were involved," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "Byron in the first and Kep with that diving catch on the ball tailing away toward the line. And Frazier's ball, which I didn't think he hit that well, but he's a strong man. Rosie seemed like he had it the whole way and jumped at the last second."

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.