Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Buxton's breakout

Torri Hunter (right) greets Byron Buxton after the rookie
scored in the first inning.

Paul Molitor moved Byron Buxton up to the leadoff slot Monday night, figuring that John Danks was a good matchup for the struggling rookie. Buxton, Molitor said, was taking better at-bats, especially against left-handers (such as Danks).

Buxton led off with a double and added a pair of singles. Plus he threw out two baserunners. Chalk up another good call for the rookie manager.

What was noteworthy about the first two hits was the role Buxton's speed played. The double wasn't a real gapper. It didn't get particularly deep into the outfield. Few players would even consider going for second on that ball. Buxton made it fairly easily.

The second hit was a soft groundball to shortstop. Eduardo Perez, part of the ESPN broadcast crew, talking about that play after the fact, said that he had been about to praise White Sox shortstop Alexi Ramirez' handling of the slow hopper. And indeed, Ramirez made the play perfectly; but that wasn't good enough against Buxton's swiftness.

The third hit was also interesting, an opposite field single off a right-handed pitcher. Two of the three hits went the other way.

Buxton entered the game hitting .120; he ended it hitting .200.

I said here Monday morning: Patience. Buxton in the past has struggled for a week or so after a promotion, then gotten going. On Monday night, he sure looked like he got going.

Which doesn't mean Molitor will leave him in the leadoff slot tonight against the right-handed Jeff Samardzija, who is a tough matchup for anybody. That's fine. The best thing about Monday's game is that it probably quiets the chatter about a rapid demotion for Buxton.

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