Fans at Target Center disappointed Saturday not to see Byron Buxton play might have found a little solace in witnessing history — even if the Twins didn’t win.
On scheduled day off for Buxton, the dynamic center fielder managing hip and knee injuries, rookie reliever Jhoan Duran threw the two fastest pitches in team history when he fired fastballs of 103.3 and 103.1 mph in the ninth inning of a 3-2, 10-inning loss to the Cleveland Guardians.
“Maybe there’s more in there. I can’t tell,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “They all look pretty hard from the dugout.”
On the second day of his first back-to-back appearances this season, Duran broke his previous team record of 102.8 mph set on May 7. The pitches were the fastest in the majors this season.
“It just shows the work I put in during the offseason,” he said through Twins interpreter Elvis Martinez. “It’s paying dividends and it’s showing I work really hard.”
Duran, 24, pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to hold a 1-1 tie and give the Twins a chance to win in their half of the inning. He gave up two infield rollers and struck out Franmil Reyes on a 98.8 mph splitter on a 3-2 count for the final out.
Jharel Cotton (0-1) gave up two runs in the 10th when Andres Gimenez doubled home Ernie Clement, pinch-running for automatic runner Reyes to start the inning. He was awarded second base after colliding with Twins first baseman Jose Miranda and scored on Myles Straw’s two-out single for a 3-1 lead. The Twins got one back in their half when Gio Urshella singled home automatic runner Gary Sanchez.
Rookie Miranda and second-year player Nick Gordon made the final two outs with Buxton, hitting .255 with 18 RBIs and a team-high 10 home runs, on the bench. Before the game, Baldelli said Buxton was getting a scheduled day off, but asked why Buxton didn’t pinch-hit, he said, “It wasn’t going to be an option.”
Buxton has been playing through a mild hip strain, plus a knee injury suffered sliding into second base April 15 at Boston. He missed six weeks last season with a serious hip strain. Buxton has played in 22 of the Twins’ 34 games this season but has avoided a stay on the injured list.
Baldelli said the coaching staff discussed the decision to sit Buxton on Saturday but added, “Ultimately, I make that decision. When we make the decision before the game, we don’t change what we’re going to do when the game gets going.”
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