Twins blow six-run lead, waste Byron Buxton's big day in 8-6 loss to Mariners

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Phil Miller, Star Tribune
·3 min read
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Byron Buxton is so hot, he received the ultimate compliment Sunday: The umpires believed the Mariners might have been throwing at him.

Yet he got upstaged by a Mariner hitting .226 entering the game.

Buxton singled, doubled and homered in his first three at-bats, driving in four runs and raising his batting average to .500 on the season. But Kyle Seager, 1-for-7 in the series and homerless on the season, suddenly awakened the slumbering Seattle offense, cracking a solo home run that ended Matt Shoemaker's shutout and then blasting a three-run, game-winning homer in the ninth inning, rallying the Mariners to an 8-6 victory over the Twins at Target Field.

Minnesota blew a 6-0 sixth-inning lead when Shoemaker strangely transformed from untouchable to unsteady, allowing four runs in four batters, starting with Seager's blast into the right-field seats. And in the ninth, with the Twins still clinging to a 6-5 lead, Seager followed back-to-back singles by blasting a 90-mph cutter from righthander Alexander Colome over the right-field wall.

It was Colome's second blown ninth-inning lead of the season, handed the Mariners a 2-1 series win, and ruined Buxton's latest hitting clinic. Might have made his back hurt just a little bit, too.

When Buxton came to the plate in the seventh, righthander Will Vest's second pitch came in high and across the middle — of the batter's box. Buxton turned away and was struck on his uniform numbers, the umpires huddled and issued a warning about targeting hitters, and Mariners manager Scott Servais was ejected for profanely objecting.

The Twins' center fielder will be fine, just like their offense has been with him in it. Buxton has drilled an extra-base hit in seven of the eight games he's played in, five homers and four doubles, leaving him three shy of MLB leader J.D. Martinez, who by coincidence arrives at Target Field with the Red Sox on Monday. Never before had Buxton hit a home run in one of the Twins' first dozen games of a season; this season, the newly appointed cleanup hitter has five in the first nine.

Nelson Cruz drove in the Twins' first run with a sacrifice fly, and Max Kepler added a third-inning RBI in identical fashion. Buxton did the rest. He clubbed a bases-loaded double into the right-field corner in the third off Mariners starter Chris Flexen. And in the fifth, after Flexen walked Cruz, Buxton crushed a first-pitch fastball 411 feet into the bullpens, setting off a mini-celebration among the Twins' relievers.

If Buxton's performance is getting to be standard, Shoemaker's was bizarre. The righthander kept Seattle off-balance for five seemingly effortless innings, allowing only three hits and no runs while striking out seven. It brought his season ERA to 0.82.

And "abrupt" understates how quickly that changed.

Shoemaker surrendered a leadoff home run to Seager in the sixth, just the second run he had allowed in his two starts as a Twin. The next batter, Jose Marmolejos, hit a ball so high up the right-field wall, umpires had to check the replay to make sure it wasn't a homer, too. He settled for a double, then went to third on Luis Torrens' single. And both scored on Shoemaker's next pitch, which Taylor Trammell drove onto the right-field plaza.

As Trammell ran the bases, Shoemaker approached home plate umpire Manny Gonzalez, apparently to complain about the strike zone. He was ejected, but Cody Stashak entered the game and recorded three strikeouts to end the inning.