For over 24 hours now, we've heard all the reasons there's no chance the Twins can beat the mighty Yankees in the ALDS. Massive payroll, won 103 games, scored 915 runs, CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, etc. Yesterday's 7-2 loss only reinforces the lopsided matchup in the eyes of most media and fans. Since we're not going to hear much other than the Yankees inevitable march to the World Series on the ESPN and TBS coverage, here are five real reasons to be optimistic about the Twins' chances in the remaining four games:
- The great equalizer - a five game series. It's much easier for David to beat Goliath in a short series as opposed to a seven game series or a full season. It's not a coincidence that the Yankees' last three playoff runs have ended in ALDS losses to the Angels (2005, in 5 games), Tigers (2006, 4 games) and Indians (2007, 4 games). Also, New York won game one in both 2005 and 2006 before losing each series.
- Multiple Off Days - At this point of the season, it's pretty clear that Brian Duensing, however gritty on the mound, is the Twins' #4 starter behind Baker, Blackburn and Pavano. With off days on Thursday, Saturday and Tuesday, the Twins could go with Blackburn-Pavano-Baker and then bring Blackburn back in game 5 on normal rest. Seriously, the five game schedule looks like an NBA playoff series with the off days.
- New York Rotation - Beyond CC Sabathia, there is a lot more inconsistency and uncertainty than you might think. A.J. Burnett has been wild at times (97 walks in 207 innings) and was awful in August (0-4 with a 6.03 ERA), Andy Pettitte has allowed 17 runs over his last five starts (27.1 innings), showing signs of wearing down after 194.2 innings, and who knows who NY will throw in Game 4. Joba? Mitre? Bring it on. Of course, NY could bring out CC in Game 4 and AJ in Game 5 if needed, but frankly, I have more confidence in Blackburn in a Game 5 than in AJ.
- New York Pressure - The Twins are the underdog. No one expects them to beat the mighty Yankees, so they can play as loose as they want. On the other hand, the Yankees live in a fishbowl. All the Yankees fans I've talked to are expecting a sweep, and are already scouting the Angels and Red Sox for the ALCS. Once Minnesota forces game 4 and 5, there are going to be a lot of arms approaching pinstriped throats.
- The Metrodome - I'm not sure any team, including the Yankees, can beat the Twins in the Metrodome right now. There is some serious positive mojo going on, given the sweep of the Royals, Vikes-Packers, and one game playoff. If the Twins can win these two home games (like I think they will), all they need is a split in the remaining two games in NY. A difficult, but certainly a realistic task.
All said, the outcome of Game 1 hasn't changed my series prediction. Twins shock the world by taking Game 5 in NY, celebrating on the new Yankee Stadium field. Who's with me?