MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Byron Buxton can energize the Minnesota Twins like nobody else, even in a severe slump during a frustrating season when his balky knee has limited him to designated hitter duty.
The latest jolt came on Friday night.
Buxton halted an 0-for-26 skid by homering in his first two at-bats, and Alex Kirilloff and Ryan Jeffers also took Lance Lynn deep for the Twins in a 9-4 victory over the Chicago White Sox.
“Just stay positive. I had a tough week, and my teammates just told me to go out there and be myself,” Buxton said. “Me being myself is the best version for the team.”
Buxton hit a first-pitch fastball from Lynn into the bullpen in left-center to cap a five-run first inning that Kirilloff sparked with a two-run shot. Buxton, whose batting average fell below .200 last week during his third hitless streak of at least 20 at-bats this year, led off the fourth with a drive into the left-field bleachers off a 2-2 slider for his 17th homer of the season.
“He loves to play, and people respond to him,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “They always have, and they always will.”
Twins starter Joe Ryan (9-6) gave up a home run to Andrew Benintendi on his first pitch and outlasted a two-run shot by Yasmani Grandal in the sixth to finish that inning and notch his second win in his last 10 turns. The Twins, who are 41-12 when scoring four or more runs, kept their two-game lead on Cleveland in the AL Central after scratching two starters from the original lineup because of pinkeye.
“We’ve just come out hot in the second half, so that’s been really fun to watch," Ryan said. "The energy’s just a lot better, a lot cleaner there.”
The Twins (51-48) have been in first place in the weak division for 104 of 114 days this season despite barely staying above the break-even mark.
Kirilloff hit a two-run, two-out double in the seventh inning to send Lynn (6-9) to the dugout. The burly right-hander's ERA rose to 6.18 despite three of the nine runs he allowed being unearned. Right fielder Zach Remillard dropped a fly ball and second baseman Elvis Andrus dropped a relay throw to exacerbate the damage against Lynn, one of several prominent underperformers for the White Sox (41-58).
“It’s a long season," Benintendi said. ”It’s going to turn at some point, hopefully starting now.”
Lynn's first-inning ERA, the worst in the major leagues, spiked to 10.80. The four homers surrendered matched his career high, first set in 2017 with St. Louis, and added to his MLB-most 28 allowed this season.
“It’s kind of been my year so far,” Lynn said.
Buxton let out some steam on his trip around the bases in the first inning, smacking himself on the chest as he yelled encouragement toward his teammates in the dugout and pumping his right arm at the relievers in the bullpen while rounding second in his signature celebratory ode to his truck-driving father.
This was his 10th career multi-homer game. The first home run was his second-hardest hit ball of the season, at 114.3 mph according to MLB's Statcast data.
Buxton batted sixth, his lowest spot in the order since the 2021 season opener.
“He’s been hitting the ball so hard too, and they don’t always land,” Ryan said. “He’s gotten snubbed a little bit, so it was good to see him finally go a lot farther than the stadium walls.”
White Sox: 1B Andrew Vaughn was out for the third straight game with a bone bruise in his left foot after fouling a ball off it on Tuesday.
Twins: Jorge Polanco (strained left hamstring) has moved to third base during his rehab assignment so second baseman Edouard Julien can stay in the lineup when Polanco is back. Julien is 17 for 29 with three doubles and three homers in his last nine games. 3B Royce Lewis (strained left oblique) is halfway into a six-week recovery.
White Sox: RHP Dylan Cease (4-3, 4.18 ERA) pitches on Saturday night. He won his last start after eight consecutive no-decisions and has 69 strikeouts in his last 49 innings.
Twins: RHP Sonny Gray (4-4, 3.16) takes the mound for the middle game of the series. The All-Star is winless with a 4.35 ERA over his last 13 turns. The Twins went 3-10 in those games.
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