MINNEAPOLIS — For several years, Minnesota Twins center fielder Byron Buxton was heralded as one of the best prospects in baseball.
Until recently, though, that talent wasn’t on full display in the major leagues.
An impressive outing Sunday against the Toronto Blue Jays, in which Buxton hit three home runs, extended the speedy outfielder’s impressive month.
Heading into the series opener against the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday at Target Field, Buxton is batting .330 (32-for-97) with eight home runs, 21 RBIs and eight stolen bases in August.
The emergence of Buxton late in the season is a big reason why Minnesota is hanging on to the second American League wild-card spot. The Twins (67-63) are one game in front of the Los Angeles Angels.
“He kind of stood out,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said of Buxton after Minnesota’s 7-2 win at Toronto on Sunday. “The two games we won up here, he had huge impact in both of those games.”
Buxton, who on Monday was named the American League Player of the Week, ended July batting just .218, making some question whether the former No. 2 overall pick was worth the early hype he received. But with an impressive stretch in August, Buxton is squashing those doubts.
“It’s neat to watch him make plays in center field look easy and watch him take easy swings that (go) over the fence,” Twins starter Kyle Gibson told the Star Tribune on Sunday. “He’s really coming into his own.”
While the Twins are still very much in postseason contention, the White Sox (52-77) are not. Chicago comes to Target Field with the worst record in the American League.
The two teams have seen plenty of each other lately. Thanks to a makeup game that resulted in a doubleheader on Aug. 21, Minnesota and Chicago played five games in four days at Guaranteed Rate Field last week. The White Sox won three of those contests and went on to take two of three games from the Detroit Tigers over the weekend.
Chicago is 6-3 in the past nine games.
“It’s good for us as an organization, as a club, to come in and play the Twins and take three out of five,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria told MLB.com after the series last week. “It was good to play the way we played.”
A pair of veteran pitchers will take the mound Tuesday to open the new series.
Minnesota will start right-hander Ervin Santana (13-7, 3.24 ERA), while Chicago will go with James Shields (2-4, 5.63 ERA).
Santana has yet to lose to the White Sox this year (3-0 with a 2.33 ERA in four starts), and he is 11-8 with a 3.58 ERA lifetime against Chicago.
Shields is winless in two tries against Minnesota in 2017. He is 8-8 with a 4.21 ERA in 23 career starts versus the Twins.
As Minnesota continues to look toward the postseason, the Twins know they can’t afford to squander many more opportunities against teams such as the White Sox. Minnesota’s schedule is relatively favorable the rest of the season, beginning Tuesday with a team looking up at everybody else in the AL standings.
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