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Twins’ Buxton free to start new steals streak

Minnesota Twins center fielder Byron Buxton (25) steals second base ahead of a tag by New York Mets second baseman Robinson Cano (24) during the second inning Tuesday, April 9, at Citi Field in New York. Brad Penner / USA TODAY Sports

HOUSTON — There aren’t many players across Major League Baseball who always have a green light to steal.

Then again, there aren’t many players with Byron Buxton’s speed. Buxton entered the Tuesday, April 23, game with a sprint speed of 30 feet/second, atop the Major League Baseball leaderboard.

So, in order to catch the Twins’ center fielder stealing, the execution must be nearly perfect. And the Astros were on Monday as they nabbed Buxton in the eighth inning. With Max Kepler at the plate, Chris Devenski delivered a 93 mph fastball to Robinson Chirinos. The Astros’ catcher, with a pop time of two seconds flat, fired down to shortstop Carlos Correa, who tagged Buxton out.

That ended a streak of 33 steals in as many attempts that began on May 23, 2017. With the streak now over, Buxton is free to clear his mind and begin anew.

Buxton said the caught stealing was, in a way, relieving, because now he can run free with no pressure.

“There’s been some times when I felt great on the bases and I’ve looked, and it’s like, ‘Man, he’s got a cannon,’ Buxton said. “My first thought was, ‘Man, I don’t want to get thrown out, so I’m not going to run.’ Instead of, ‘You know what, I’m going to run. I don’t care how good you are.’ I got that mentality, but it was still on the passive side. It was that one thing holding me back, instead of me just going.”

After the fact, Buxton took it as a learning experience. He went back and looked at video to see if there was anything he could learn and in the end, credited the Astros for making a great play.

Now, Buxton has a chance to start over. The green light isn’t going away. It’s been there since 2013, he said, and will remain there.

“It takes a lot of things to go right to throw him out,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “…The pitcher has to be pretty quick to the plate. The catcher has to make a good throw. It has to be right there. Everything has to go right. I think we’re going to continue to let him put pressure on the defense and make his own decisions out there and let him do his thing.”

Twins shift lineup for lefty

For the first time this season, when the Twins began their game on Tuesday, they were opposed by a lefty.

With Wade Miley on the mound, the Twins moved leadoff hitter Max Kepler, a lefty himself, down in the lineup. Mitch Garver, who has hit up top when Kepler has been out of the lineup, led off Tuesday.

Kepler, coming into the day, was a career .200/.271/.327 hitter against lefties, while he has slashed .246/.330/.451 against righties.

“I think the signs point to him being able to handle left-handed pitching and doing it just fine,” Baldelli said. “I think, like talking about any hitter, it takes a lot of at-bats to figure things out, to make adjustments and to see what guys really are capable of, and I think we’re going to see Max out there playing against a lot of left-handers. I think the way the lineup is written out today, maybe that won’t be the way it’s written out the next time we face a lefty but I think it works fine.”