Buxton’s inside-the-park HR fuels Twins over Sale, ChiSox

Published 9:05 am Monday, October 3, 2016

Although he had Byron Buxton lead off Sunday’s season finale, Twins manager Paul Molitor said beforehand he doesn’t envision the talented rookie as a top-of-the-lineup hitter just yet.

Molitor may need to reconsider.

Buxton hit the game’s first pitch for an inside-the-park home run and Minnesota beat Chris Sale and the White Sox 6-3 in manager Robin Ventura’s final game with Chicago.

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According to MLB’s Statcast, it took Buxton just 14.05 seconds to circle the bases, the fastest since it began tracking in 2015.

“Home to home, you’re not going to see many guys do that time,” Molitor said. “If baseball was five bases, he probably would have been safe, too. He was gone.”

The speedy Buxton drilled Sale’s 93 mph fastball to center field, where Leury Garcia got turned around in pursuit. It landed over his head and bounced against the wall as Garcia fell awkwardly. Garcia complained of a sore hip and left an inning later.

“Out the box I just took off hard,” Buxton said. “I didn’t know what would happen. Between first and second I saw he didn’t catch it and said, ‘This is going to be interesting.”’

Buxton, formerly the top prospect in baseball, hit .287 with eight homers and 22 RBIs in 29 games after rejoining Minnesota on Sept. 1. It was a pivotal turnaround for the potential five-tool talent after batting .193 with minimal power prior to September.

Miguel Sano added a three-run homer off Sale (17-10), who allowed five runs and six hits over five innings.

Ventura said after the game that leaving was “a personal decision.” He was in the last year of his contract. The White Sox (78-84) finished their fourth straight losing season.

“I just feel it’s the right time,” Ventura said. “It’s more of a personal decision than anything. I love being here. The organization means a lot to me. You can go as hard as you can and, really, the only thing you know is how you conduct your business and how you treat people. I’m good with that.”

Jose Berrios (3-7) allowed one run and four hits in five innings. The Twins (59-103) closed with two straight wins after setting a team record for most losses since the franchise began play in Minnesota in 1961.

Brandon Kintzler got the final three outs for his 17th save in 20 tries.

Amid speculation Sale could be dealt in the offseason to start a rebuilding effort, the lefty got off to a bad start.

After Sano’s 25th homer in the third, Sale got out of further trouble and retired his final seven batters. He struck out six to leave him with 233 and a 3.34 ERA.

Chicago’s Jose Abreu singled to left in the third to become the seventh player to collect 100 RBIs in each of his first three seasons in the majors.

Ventura out, who’s next?

The Chicago Sun-Times reported Saturday that bench coach and former Cubs manager Rick Renteria will likely take over, but the team did not immediately announce a replacement. White Sox general manager Rick Hahn is scheduled to address reporters today.

“I think he’s got a lot of qualities that Robin has. Maybe a little more vocal,” outfielder Adam Eaton said of Renteria. “He definitely will get his point across a little more, vocally.”

Ventura went 375-435 in five seasons with the White Sox. After an 85-77 debut in 2012 that wasn’t good enough for the playoffs, Ventura suffered through four consecutive losing seasons.

No Dozier

Twins second baseman Brian Dozier’s season ended two home runs shy of a record and one RBI short of 100.

Dozier sat out after exiting Saturday’s game with right oblique soreness.

“If we were play for anything, I’d be out there,” Dozier said. “But it would be dumb for me to go out there today.”

Dozier hit 40 of his 42 homers while playing second, two shy of the major league record at the position shared by the Braves’ Davey Johnson and the Cardinals’ Rogers Hornsby.

Ugly year

Molitor summed up the season as “disappointing” and surprised “to have it blow up as quickly as it did.”

Hits & misses

White Sox 3B Todd Frazier went 1 for 4 without an RBI to finish with 98. Frazier hit a career-best 40 homers, but batted only .225.