LOS ANGELES – Byron Buxton, the Minnesota Twins centerfielder, wasn’t demanding a recount Tuesday night.
He said the MVP trophy at the All-Star Game went to the right man, New York Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton. In fact, Buxton looked grateful to be answering questions in front of his locker rather than at a big news conference after the American League beat the National League 3-2 at Dodger Stadium.
“I like to be in the background,’’ he said.
Now that could be tougher to do – even for a man playing in a small market like Minneapolis – after Buxton delivered the game-winning hit in front of a sellout crowd of 52,518 and a national TV audience.
With the American League trailing the National League 2-0 in the top of the fourth, Stanton blasted a two-run homer. Up next, Buxton belted a solo homer off the Dodgers’ Tony Gonsolin.
It was a 92 mph fastball on a 2-1 count that Buxton launched 425 feet to left. The analytics of the swing will have to wait.
“See ball, hit ball,’’ said Buxton, 28, after making his All-Star debut.
He was more keen to talk about the 83 mph splitter that Stanton belted 457 feet to left center.
ALL-STAR GAME: Stanton, Buxton power American League to ninth straight win
“It kind of fired me up a little bit,’’ said Buxton, in his eighth year in the majors. “He went up there and put a good swing on the ball and it was like, now you go up there and put a good swing on the ball. And it kind of just simplified it for me by not going up there trying to do too much.’’
The moment might have been for him had it occurred in his hometown of Atlanta, said Buxton, who pointed out that Stanton grew up in Southern California.
“For me, it’s nothing but respect,’’ he said of his fellow AL All-Star.
At about that time, Liam Hendriks, the Chicago White Sox pitcher and fellow All-Star started ribbing Buxton. The two players enjoyed a laugh before Buxton walked off.
Hendriks explained that he’d crossed paths when Hendricks was with the Twins in 2013 and Buxton was coming up through the Twins’ minor league system.
Byron Buxton slugs a 2-1 pitch from Dodger righthander Tony Gonsolin into the left-field seats, becoming the fourth Twin ever to hit a home run in an All-Star Game.
All-Star HRs by Twins
Harmon Killebrew, 1961, 1965, 1971
Kirby Puckett, 1993
Brian Dozier, 2015
Byron Buxton, 2022
— Phil Miller (@MillerStrib) July 20, 2022
Injuries and inconsistency plagued his early years with the Twins, but the club showed its faith by signing him to a $100 million extension last off-season. The deal came with a commitment to manage Buxton’s workload, to keep him healthy and maximize matchups. The plan has worked nearly to perfection: Buxton slugged 23 first half homers and put up an .824 OPS, while playing his often spectacular defense.
The breakout has thrilled teammate and opponent alike and Tuesday night, the baseball-watching public got a look.
“Just to be able to put a swing on the ball and contribute in my first All-Star Game is like a dream come true,” he said. “It’s a memory I won’t forget.”
Contributing: Gabe Lacques