Minnesota’s Ideal Path Through the AL Playoffs
Image courtesy of © Brad Penner-USA TODAY SportsAvoid the Wild Card Game
One of the most important steps in having a sustained playoff run is avoiding playing in a coin flip game like each league’s wild-card game. Minnesota fans are well aware of the dangers of this game after seeing the Twins fall to the Yankees back in 2017. New York went on to the ALCS that year and there are some concerns with surviving this style of game.
In that 2017 AL wild card game, Minnesota started Ervin Santana and then was forced to turn to Jose Berrios as a reliever. If the club had survived, they would have been put in an interesting spot for picking a starter of in Game 1 of the ALDS. Pitching staffs can be taxed in this type of game and there is too much randomness in a win-or-go-home atmosphere.
The Twins need to make sure they take care of business and win the AL Central.
Houston Poses a Problem
If Minnesota is able win the AL Central, the club will qualify for the ALDS for the first time since 2010. Entering play on Wednesday, New York and Houston are separated by less than a game. Minnesota sits four games back so it seems unlikely they could catch either of the front-runners for the league’s top record. This means a first-round series on the road versus one of the league’s top teams.
There are a couple ways to think about a Houston match-up. Teams are going to have to go through Houston at some point in the playoffs and it might be better seeing their strong starters in a shorter series. Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Zack Greinke would get fewer starts over five games than in seven games. This could allow the Twins to steal a game or two and end up with a series victory.
New York would be the better match-up, but it would be better to face Houston in a shorter series. If a team must take out Houston, do it in the ALDS.
Big Apple Battle
Minnesota fans might have a phobia of facing off against the Yankees because of past playoff experience. When the Yankees came to Minneapolis earlier this year, it resulted in an epic back-and-forth series. New York’s pitching staff has flaws, but their offense is certainly on a par with Minnesota’s record-breaking line-up.
It seems most likely for Houston or New York to take care of any of the wild card teams, but anything can happen in a five-game series. Tampa Bay, Cleveland, and Oakland are all in the running for the two AL wild card spots. Any of these three teams would be a better match-up than facing Houston or New York in a seven-game series, but it would take a team coming in hot to take down one of the league’s top foes.
If Minnesota takes care of Houston in the ALDS, it would be fitting for the club to face-off against the Yankees for the right to represent the AL in the World Series. It would be similar to the Red Sox exorcising their demons against the Yankees on the way to their 2004 title. If Minnesota must beat New York at some point, so why not do it on the biggest possible stage?
What do you feel is the ideal path for the Twins to make it through the gauntlet of the AL playoffs? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
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