It is no secret that Byron Buxton has had injury troubles since he made his MLB debut back in 2015. It is also no secret that when Buxton is patrolling center field for the Minnesota Twins, he has one of the best gloves in the game.
On Monday night against the White Sox, Buxton’s defensive expertise started the first 8-5 triple play in MLB history. With runners on first and second and no outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, White Sox outfielder A.J. Pollock hit a long fly ball to the right-center field gap.
Buxton got an excellent jump over his left shoulder and made the catch on the warning track, right before he hit the outfield wall. He turned around and fired the ball towards second base, where third baseman Gio Urshela grabbed it on one hop. Urshela tagged out Chicago’s Yoan Moncada and then stepped on second base to triple off Adam Engel.
MLB.com reporter Sarah Langs did a quick search of SABR’s historical database and discovered it is the first 8-5 triple play ever recorded in a Major League game. Unbelievable.
Byron Buxton Saves Game with Elite Play
According to Yahoo! Sports’ Jack Baer, the batted ball by Pollock had a .820 xBA (expected batting average) – meaning similar batted balls by MLB players are hits 82% of the time. That explains why both runners were not concerned with being conservative and staying on their bases. It also puts into perspective how great a catch that was by Byron Buxton.
The 28-year-old, former No. 2 overall pick ranks 12th in the American League so far this season with a 2.7 WAR. It is the appropriate statistic to measure Buxton’s impact because it takes into account both offense and defense.
Not only did Buxton etch his name into the baseball record books, but he also likely saved the game for the Twins. The score was tied 2-2 in the bottom of the seventh inning when Buxton made that play. The game eventually went into extra frames knotted at that same score. Minnesota scored four runs in the top of the 10th and hung on for a 6-3 victory.