On the season as a whole, Minnesota owns a 2-4 record and a -8 run differential against Joe Girardi’s squad. They did take the series at Target Field, but were swept on the road in September. A better road team over the full slate of games however, this group isn’t afraid to win anywhere. Without a full series, and realistically in a situation that benefits them, Minnesota will have to capitalize early and often to pull the upset. Here are a few areas for them to key on:
Get to Severino-
An All-Star in 2017, Luis Severino has had nothing short of an incredible year. With a 2.98 ERA and a 10.7 K/9, he’s among the best young pitchers in the game. Therein lies an opportunity as well. At 23 years old, a one-game Wild Card will be the biggest stage the youngster has ever pitched on. Going against Minnesota on September 20, he may have begun to tip his hand.
Lit up for three runs on five hits in just 3.0 IP, it was his second shortest outing of the year. Across 71 pitches, he threw 35 fastballs, 28 sliders, and 8 changeups. With velocity being his game, Twins hitters were able to sit fastball, and tee off on the pitch. He didn’t give up much real hard contact, but Twins hitters were able to get decent launch angles on most of the balls they put in play.
Knowing what’s behind him as far as Yankee arms go, working Severino and jumping out to an early lead is going to be a must.
Score early and often-
When Minnesota took the series from New York in Minnesota, it was on the backs of 4-2 and 6-1 victories. Both of those games saw the Twins score first, and neither of them ended up being a grind-it-out effort. While a one game situation allows teams to pull out all of the stops, turning it into a barnburner doesn’t favor Minnesota.
On the year, Minnesota has scored the fifth most runs in MLB, and the Yankees trail only the Houston Astros. Playing for one run in any inning, especially early, is going to have the Twins beating themselves. With just 27 outs at their disposal, Paul Molitor will have to do everything he can to turn away from bunting and micro-managing the game.
Realistically, the hometown nine don’t have the staying power that the Yankees do, and New York can get back into a game in a hurry (ask Bartolo Colon). Getting chunk innings, and continuing to add on will be a must for a victory.
Control the pace-
In the recent series with the Yankees, battery mates Ervin Santana and Jason Castro allowed New York to have their way on the bases. Knowing this same dup will be on the mound, expect Girardi to exploit whatever he saw that first go-around. Allowing New York runners to swipe extra bases is one issue, but the Twins will need to control the pace in general.
The Yankees are one of the slowest playing teams in all of baseball. Being on the road already hurts momentum, but Minnesota will need to do what they can to harbor as much of it as possible. Strong defense and good at-bats can go a long way toward eventual run production.
Play the percentages-
Yes, the Yankees bullpen is significantly better than what the Twins have at their disposal. Minnesota will need to do what they can to avoid allowing that to make a difference. That being said, Molitor can use his best relievers to exploit Yankees hitters.
There’s power up and down the New York lineup, but there is also plenty of strikeout potential. Using arms like Taylor Rogers, Ryan Pressly, Trevor Hildenberger, Alan Busenitz and Matt Belisle, Molitor should focus on putting opposing hitters in situations he wants them in. While not a traditional usage of a reliever, getting single outs at a time should be the goal. If there are opportunities that lend themselves to easier avenues in generating outs, take them.
Over the course of a full season, a boatload of pitching changes is never going to be a welcome reality. Given the situation however, pulling out all of the stops is a must. Ideally, Ervin Santana throws a complete game shutout, but if and when he doesn’t, don’t be afraid to have an early hook.
Entering Yankee Stadium, the Twins are playing with house money. This collection was not supposed to be here, and they won’t be favored at any point from here on out. While you can embrace the underdog narrative, the reality is that this group has the ability to make waves. They’ve shown that throughout the regular season, and whether it be a one-game playoff with the Yankees, or a full series with the Indians, any opponent welcoming this contingent with open arms is opening themselves up for disappointment.
- Sep 28 2017 08:33 PM
- by Ted Schwerzler