Some guys are fast. In the case of Minnesota Twins outfielder Byron Buxton, he can flat out fly. Against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday night, Buxton led off the bottom of the fourth inning with a deep fly ball to center field for an inside-the-park home run. There are generally a few things that happen for an inside-the-parker to come to fruition, so let’s see what happened at Target Field.
The most important thing Buxton could have done was go hard out of the batter’s box, which he did on contact. Seeing that this ball was headed for one of the deepest parts of the ballpark, he had already started his line for a double. This means that rather than running straight down the foul line, Buxton headed into foul territory to make it easier to round first and create a straight line to second base.
The ball hit to the right of the 403-foot marker in center field. Typically, this ball is a double. If Arizona center fielder AJ Pollock played the ball cleanly off the ball, Buxton is fast enough that he could have probably rounded second hard and thought about third, but there’s a good chance he’s staying put, as the leadoff man doesn’t want to get thrown out at third.
However, Pollock misplayed the ball off the wall as he misread the play of the wall and the ball ricocheted behind him to his left toward no-man’s land in center field. If the ball had gone to his right, there’s a good chance right fielder David Peralta fields the rebound and holds Buxton to a triple. But once the ball bounced behind Pollock, Buxton could stay in top gear to round second and head for third. At this point, you can see Buxton has home plate in his sights, because he’s still wide of the basepath from second to third and hasn’t cut in tight to create a shorter path to third.
By the time Pollock was able to reach the ball and muster a quick, weak throw to his cutoff man, Buxton has touched third and rounded for home. Arizona second baseman Daniel Descalso made a perfect throw from shallow center field as the cutoff man, but it was a hair too late as Buxton’s line from third was also perfect and he slid head first to swipe his hand across the backside of home plate.
Buxton ran the bases in nearly a perfect line, and had to with a close throw. As a result, he tied the game. In the meantime, he broke his own record for the fastest round-tripper at just 13.85 seconds, according to Statcast.
Sometimes an inside-the-parker is simply a matter of a misplayed ball, which Pollock did in this case. On Friday night, it was a case of a misplayed ball and one of the fastest men in baseball taking advantage of an opportunity. In reality, most guys still would have been stuck standing on third here.
Feature photo by Brigham Berthold