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Yankees-Twins Wild Card Game Preview

(Tom Scibelli/WFUV Sports)

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For just the second time in the past five seasons, the New York Yankees will be playing playoff baseball. Now, they have to beat Minnesota to play in their first playoff series since being swept by the Tigers in the 2012 ALCS.

 

Make no mistake about it, the Yankees should beat the Twins. They are a more talented team. They’re playing better. They have the better starting pitcher, and they absolutely own Minnesota. The Yanks have defeated the Twins in the 2003, 2004, 2009, and 2010 ALDS, going 12-2. It’s been pure domination.

But this is just one game.

 

If this was a seven, five, or even three game series, the Yankees would be a near lock to advance, but anything can happen in nine innings. One bad bounce or one bad call can change everything. One game is so hard to predict, but we’re all going to try our best anyway.

Pitching matchup

Luis Severino (NYY)- 31 GS, 14-6, 2.98 ERA, 193.1 IP, 150 H, 230 SO, 51 BB, 1.04 WHIP

Ervin Santana (MIN)- 33 GS, 16-8, 3.28 ERA, 211.1 IP, 177 H, 167 SO, 61 BB, 1.13 WHIP

The Yankees have the advantage here, but it’s not a complete mismatch. Luis Severino has been nothing short of spectacular this season. He was a huge question mark coming into this year after a disastrous 2016, but he’s proven to be a legitimate ace and will likely finish third in AL Cy Young voting. He’s the first Yankee to start more than 20 games and finish with a sub-3.00 ERA since Andy Pettite in 1997. He had 21 quality starts. He allowed 1 ER or less in 17 of his 31 starts (55%). It was truly a historical season.

Ervin Santana is no slouch either, though. He’s had somewhat of an up and down career, but this has been arguably his best season yet. For the first 70 innings of the year, he allowed just 31 hits. That’s better than a hit per two innings, which is absurd. He did struggle in June (6.03 ERA) and July (4.68 ERA), but he finished strong. He’s a reliable veteran that Minnesota can count on.

Still, I think the Yankees have the advantage here. Luis Severino is a gamer. The game with the most playoff atmosphere this year was Sunday night September 3rd against Chris Sale and the Red Sox. The Pinstripes won, and Severino was outstanding (6 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 9 SO). I fully believe that Severino has what it takes to be dominant tonight, even if he’s never pitched in a playoff game at any level (which is still crazy to think about).

 

Offenses

The Yankees have the better offense, but the Minnesota bats are no joke. Joe Mauer is a .300 hitter and potential Hall of Famer. Eddie Rosario had a real solid season (.290/27/78), while Byron Buxton and Max Kepler are exciting and talented young hitters. Minnesota will play small ball, and I expect to see them bunting and stealing bases to throw Severino off his rhythm. However, it’s important to note that the Twins have struggled against hard-throwers. They hit just .230 with a .365 slugging against 95+ MPH pitches. Severino throws gas, and so does the rest of the Yankees bullpen.

The Yankees offense is just superior. This is as deep and balanced of a lineup that they’ve had since probably 2009. They hit for power (a lot of power), but can also steal some bags and are extremely patient at the plate. They’re not a team that needs the home run to win. They’ve shown the ability to string rallies together without the benefit of the long ball. They will be patient against Santana, and I can see them hitting at least one out considering he allowed 31 dingers on the year.

 

Bullpens

This is the biggest advantage the Yankees have, and it’s not even close. Expect to see Chad Green, who has been a cheat code lately, up at the first sign of trouble for Severino. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him throwing in the fourth inning if Severino is struggling even a little, and you can’t blame Girardi. Since August 19th, Chad Green has walked just two batters. He’s faced 60 in that timespan. He’s struck out 28 of them, nearly half. Oh, and he’s allowed just one run in 17 innings. CHEAT CODE.

 

Besides Green, the only guys I’d expect to see out of the bullpen are David Robertson and Aroldis Chapman. Dellin Betances has been just too inconsistent lately, and simply can’t be trusted in a do-or-die scenario. I’d expect to see those big three relievers (and Severino obviously) to all pitch tonight. The critical decision for Girardi is how/when to use them.

 

The Twins bullpen doesn’t present much of a threat. They ranked 22nd in both bullpen fWAR and ERA. There are some capable arms out there, but nobody for the Yankees to totally fear.

 

Prediction

 

I think Yankee fans should be worried. It’s one game, so anything can happen. Even though the Yankees are so much better, I just can’t shake a bad feeling that they will lose. However, I’m still going to go with my head and say that the better team will play the better game and win 4-2. Gary Sanchez goes deep in the first for a two-run shot after an Aaron Judge walk. Severino goes 5.2 innings allowing two runs. Chad Green records the final out of the sixth and finishes the seventh. Then Robertson in the eighth and Chapman in the ninth. I also think Todd Frazier goes deep. So no reason to even watch, there’s what happens. Also, if the Yankees lose I’ll probably need to be dragged out of the locker room crying knowing that my time covering them is over, and nobody wants that.

 

No matter what though, it’s fun to have playoff baseball back in the Bronx.

 

To listen to audio from their Wild Card Workout at the Stadium, click here.