The New York Yankees will host the Minnesota Twins in yet another post season matchup Friday night in the Bronx. The two franchises have met up a lot over the years and it seems to be the same outcome every time, the Yankees dominate the small market Twins. But this isn’t your father’s Twins as the 2019 version are a true threat to the Bronx Bombers.
Setting the Stage
The three game series the New York Yankees and the Minnesota Twins played back in late July could take home honors for the most wildly entertaining matchup of the year. The series had everything from explosive offensive power displayed on both sides, to quite literary the best defensive play of the year by Aaron Hicks who laid out in centerfield to snag a game saving liner in the gap, a hit that would have cleared the loaded bases and won the game for the Twins. The Yankees narrowly escaped that series winning two out of three.
As we head into the ALDS Game 1 Friday night in the Bronx, it is hard to overlook the pure dominance the New York Yankees have had against the Twins over the years including the postseason. The numbers since 2002 are jarring. The Yankees are an absurd 99-37 against the Twins since ’02. The Twins have also lost 13 straight playoff series, including 10 straight to the Yankees. The Yankees annihalation of the Twins has now passed through generations, and completely different waves of rosters for both teams. So obviously it is not one roster dominating the other or constant bad matchups, because both rosters have been overhauled over the years. Even since the 2017 Wild card game just two seasons ago, the rosters are quite different.
Both sides are aware of the one sided history in this matchup but neither of them are giving it much thought heading into the 2019 ALDS. Yankees Manager Aaron Boone was asked about the history and dismissed it quickly.
“I don’t get all caught up in the history of it, honestly because I think theres so many guys who had nothing to do with some of that,” Boone said to the media at Yankee Stadium. He added “Yeah I can certainly dismiss that.”
In an interview with Minneapolis/St.Paul radio station SKRO North, Twins President Dave St. Peter said “We understand the history. Thats my history. It isn’t Manager Rocco Baldelli’s history, it certainly isn’t Nelson Cruz’s history. So I think its overblown. Organizationally, I say it’s time to slay the dragon, right?”
There is no rhyme or reason for the extended run of dominance for the Yankees over the Twins, but it is hard to ignore when looking into the 5th ALDS matchup since the turn of the century. But yet again these are not your father’s Twins, they can go homer for homer with the Bronx Bombers.
Getting away from the past and looking ahead to this upcoming ALDS series, there are some key things that will decide the matchup.
Offensive Fire Power
This summer wasn’t quite the homerun race of 1961, but the Yankees and Twins had their own home run record chase that would not be decided until the final day of the regular season. The Twins out bashed the Yankees and secured the single season team home run record of 307, beating out the Yankees who finished with 306 as a team. The two offenses were damn near identical in most statistical categories.
When we think about postseason baseball, we think about pitching, defense and small ball all come to mind before home runs and high scoring games. However, I do expect this ALDS matchup to be unique. I would not be surprised to see a lot of long balls from the sluggers on both side of the diamond, and some crooked numbers on the scoreboard. The offense that gets the clutch hits with runners in scoring position will likely walk away victors. But as always, the pitching will dictate the pace of this series.
The pitching, or lack thereof will play a huge role in this series. When you take a look at both rotations, there is no sure thing. For the Yankees Masahiro Tanaka has been that go to ace in the postseason and has been very successful, but he had some real shaky outings this season where he was rocked. James Paxton has the hot hand in the second half but in his final outing he only went an inning before leaving with discomfort. Then there is the ultimate wild card in Luis Severino. Severino missed all but the final two weeks on the season with injuries but in his short time back, just 9 innings of work, he looked electric and did not give up a run. But again can you trust his stuff will be there in high leverage games when he has literally just 9 innings under this belt this season.
For the Twins, they have four potential starters who can get the nod in the playoffs. The two locks to start games one and two are Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi. Berrios is the teams ace, and has the most upside of any pitcher on the roster when he has everything working for him. An explosive fastball, with a big hook breaking ball and a good changeup he mixes in well when he’s on. On the flip side Odorizzi could get the nod for Game 1 considering he had been the most consistent Twins starter this year. The third starter will be a decision between Kyle Gibson and Randy Dobnak, but expect whichever one doesn’t get the starting nod will for sure be used out of the pen at some point in the season.
With the powerhouse offenses on both sides, I don’t think the batters are fearful of being shutdown by any of these starters. In a way the starters in this series will play the role of a quarterback game manager. Just don’t get in the way and screw up to the point your offense can’t dig you out of an insurmountable hole.
But where the series will be won is by the bullpens.
The true and clear disparity between these two teams is the bullpen depth and talent. The Yankees can go five deep for six plus innings when needed with electric arm after electric arm. Chad Green, Tommy Kahnle, Adam Ottavino, Zack Britton, and Aroldis Chapman is an unbearable bullpen to have to run through for any opposing offense regardless of how good the lineup is. When you look back on the regular season matchup between the two clubs, the Twins offense was less successful when Aaron Boone made the call to the pen. In 27.1 innings the Yankees bullpen gave up 10 earned runs which calculates out to a 3.32 ERA. Not great in the grand scheme of things, but when you compare it to the 8.62 ERA the Yankees starters had against the Twins, it is a drastic difference.
As for the Twins bullpen, it lacks the star power in comparison to the Yankees bullpen, but they are very capable of being productive. Outside of Sergio Romo, the Twins bullpen is filled with guys, who the rest of the league outside of the A.L Central, are unknown. Trevor May, Zack Little, Brusdar Graterol, and Cody Stashak have all been strengths for the Twins in the second half of the season, but they are wet behind the ear when it comes to postseason baseball. The high leverage situations of facing a Yankees offense in a close game in the 8th inning with 50,000 fans in the Yankee stadium stands is a different animal from pitching in front of 5,000 in Detroit. It may be unfair to assume they can’t get it done because they haven’t had the opportunity to do so yet, but until you have been there done that on such a stage, it is hard to have confidence in there group. However if the Twins bullpen keeps up the production from post all star break, they could become household names very quickly.
All things considered, the bullpen edge is heavily in the Yankees favor. More talent, star power, and experience in high leverage situations are all real things to consider when weighing the better pen in a postseason series. Expect the Yankees to go to the bullpen early and often throughout the series.
The Minnesota Twins have to wait at least another year to slay the dragon as the New York Yankees win the series 3-1, much like they took home both regular season series.