OF's exit caused realignment that led to near-misses on key plays; speedster (lacerated finger) day to day
By Shane Jackson
MINNEAPOLIS -- For a brief moment, everyone was all smiles. Byron Buxton didn't even think about the injury, throwing Eddie Rosario an emphatic high five after Rosario made a diving snag to open the sixth.
But that play proved to be costly in the end, as Buxton's absence was later felt during a disastrous eighth inning by the Twins in a 16-8 loss to the Astros on Monday at Target Field.
"I didn't really think about it at the time, I was just pumped to make the catch," Buxton said.
The play in the sixth spoiled an extra-base hit for Josh Reddick. At that point, the Twins were just coming off a seven-run inning to take a commanding lead over the best team in baseball.
According to Statcast™, Rosario's grab had a 46 percent catch probability. His four-star catch came at a price, however. Buxton lunged just in front of Rosario in an attempt to make the catch in left-center, and his ring finger on his right hand caught Rosario's spike.
When the Twins went back into the dugout, Buxton had team officials look at it. He was removed from the game, but the X-rays came back negative, according to Minnesota manager Paul Molitor. He will be listed as day to day with a lacerated ring finger on his right hand.
"I'm very relieved. The way it looked, it could have been worse than it was," Buxton said.
While Buxton was getting X-rays, Houston stormed back with an 11-run eighth inning to cease control of the contest. It marked the most runs Minnesota had allowed in a single inning since July 25, 2007. The bullpen ended up surrendering a franchise record 14 runs across the final two innings.
And yet, it was a couple of defensive miscues in the outfield that loomed large.
Rosario shifted over to center after Buxton's departure. Infielder Ehire Adrianza was inserted into left despite playing just three games in the outfield -- all at Triple-A -- in his 11-year professional career. Adrianza was then unable to glove a one-out single off the left-field wall by Marwin Gonzalez, which cut the deficit to three early in the eighth.
"I thought he played the ball pretty well, actually," Molitor said. "I haven't looked at it on video. He got back there and leaped, just didn't make the catch. He hasn't been out there, we all know that."
The biggest blow came later in the frame when Reddick smacked a go-ahead double into right center. Rosario started shallow, 288 feet from home, to be exact. He still had to come sprinting forward as soon the ball left the bat, falling to his knees while the ball skipped off his glove. According to Statcast™, the play had a 26 percent catch probability.
"He got there, it hit off his glove," Molitor said. "We had him in the right spot to make the play, he just couldn't make the catch."
Entering Monday, Buxton's average start position in center is 314 feet, just shy of the league average of 318 feet. For comparison, Rosario's average start position in center is 307 feet, which ranked 103 out of 110 outfielders -- who have played any amount of time in center -- in terms of shallowness.
"Hopefully the soreness goes down and I'll be out there tomorrow," Buxton said.
Shane Jackson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Minneapolis. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.