The playoffs begin today for your hometown nine, so we’ll cut to the chase right off of the bat. What do your Minnesota Twins have to do to finally beat those powerful pesky pinstripes in the playoffs?
Get some quality innings in Game 1 from Jose Berrios
Minnesota’s Game 1 starter has the potential to set the tone for the Twins for the entire series. If Berrios is able to give the Twins five to seven quality innings to start the set of games, it saves some bullets from the bullpen that will likely be used frequently as the series progresses. The Twins were 17-6 this year when Berrios went six innings or more, and while the hook will be quicker with a dangerous Yankees lineup in a playoff series, it would be a huge boost if Berrios can record a quality start for the Twins. With Jake Odorizzi and Randy Dobnak the likely starters for games two and three (who knows in which order) Berrios presents the best chance for a Twins starting hurler to go a little deeper into that game. Not putting the Twins into a big hole will be key early on.
Put up some crooked numbers against the Yanks starters
The Yankees have announced that they are going with James Paxton for game one, Masahiro Tanaka in game two, and Luis Severino in game three. While each are quality starting pitchers, I believe the Twins have a chance to do some damage against all three. Paxton has been pretty good this season, but the Twins have mashed lefties to the tune of a league-leading .872 OPS, and it’s hard to know if he’s fully healthy after leaving his last outing after just one inning. Tanaka is a pretty tough righty, but he is prone to blow up games as well as being prone to the home run, giving up 28 dingers this season. Severino has made just three appearances in the bigs this year, and has a tendency to get a bit erratic. With only 12 MLB innings under his belt this year, he’s a bit of a wildcard.
The bigger reason for the Twins needing to get to the Yankees starters is that their bullpen is probably one of the top five relief units in baseball. With Aroldis Chapman, Adam Ottavino, Zach Britton and Tommy Kahnle all profiling as top-notch late inning options, it will be key for the Twins not to be playing too much catch-up, especially in the first two games at Yankee Stadium.
Get production throughout the lineup
This one is really about the health of the team, and a few specific players in particular. It’s Max Kepler, Mitch Garver, Marwin Gonzalez, and to an extent, Nelson Cruz and Miguel Sano. All of these players suffered maladies of some sort as the season wound down. While all of them will almost certainly be out there for game one of the ALDS, will they bring their usual production to the table? Kepler and Gonzalez combined to play in 17 games in September, while Garver’s hip tweak at the end of the season is also concerning. It’s unlikely Luis Arraez is back in the lineup, but if he’s able to go for even just a couple of games, his production would be a boost over Jake Cave or Lamonte Wade Jr. in the batting order. Even a healthy C.J. Cron could provide a jolt for the Twins off the bench if he is close to healthy. If the break at the end of the season really did help these players and they are back to 100%, I like the Twins chances a lot more. Unfortunately, that is somewhat of a mystery and will likely stay that way.
Have at least two young right-handed relievers step up
For the reliable relievers out of the Twins bullpen, its Taylor Rogers and then a band of righties. Sergio Romo is the only postseason-tested pitcher of the bunch, with 23.1 playoff innings and a 3.09 ERA and 0.90 WHIP. After that, it will be up to guys like Trevor May, Tyler Duffey, Zack Littell, and maybe even Cody Stashak and Brusdar Graterol. For the Twins to win this series (unless the offense goes absolutely bananas), the Twins need at least two of those guys to step up and have a really good series. In all likelihood it will be Duffey and May getting the big spot appearances, so continued effective pitching from those two would be sublime. Since August, the pair has given up just six runs in 48 innings pitched. Yes, the whole bullpen will need to perform at least reasonably well (especially with the Twins starting pitching situation), but it seems to me that the performance of the young righties could be a tipping point.
Win the Bomba Battle
This series has the potential to get crazy with two lineups filled with mashers and a baseball that looks to be somehow even more juiced in the postseason. While these two teams were nearly equals when it came to hitting home runs in the regular season, the Twins were actually quite a bit better at preventing them. The Yankees pitching staff had the seventh highest home run rate in the MLB, while the Twins’ pitching staff had the fifth lowest. This was especially true of the Yankees starting pitchers, who gave up the third-highest home run rate in the bigs when compared to other starting pitching units. Outslugging the Bronx Bombers may be a tall order, but it’s also probably necessary for the Twins move on to the next round of the playoffs. The Yankees were 66-8 (.892) this season when outhomering their opponent in a game while the Twins were 66-17 (.795). Thus, it is imperative that the Twins bring out the bombas in a big way against the bombers.
What is your prediction for the Twins-Yankees ALCS?
This poll is closed
Twins in three
Yankees in three
Twins in four
Yankees in four
Twins in five
Yankees in five