By Ryan of The Sportmeisters
About The Minnesota Twins:
A day after clinching the AL Central in a one-game playoff, the Twins travel to the Big Apple to take on the Yankees. At 87-76, the Twins closed a seven-game deficit, going 17-4 over the final month to tie the Detroit Tigers and force the playoff before clinching the AL Central.
Their success will hinge on potential AL MVP Joe Mauer, who came back from an injury to hit .365 with 28 home runs and 96 RBIs. They are without Justin Morneau, but Jason Kubel (.300, 28 home runs, 103 RBIs) has filled in nicely for him. They have one of the better closers in baseball in Joe Nathan (2.10 ERA, 47 saves), but a weak pitching rotation, already made weaker by the one-game playoff, could see Nathan spend a lot of time in the bullpen.
About The New York Yankees:
The AL East Champions, and only 100+ game winner at 103-59, return to the playoffs after a one year absence snapped their playoff appearance streak. The Yankees opened a brand new Yankee Stadium, and have earned the rights to home field advantage throughout the LDS and LCS. It’s no surprise this team is loaded from top to bottom in both pitching and hitting.
Offensively, it starts at the top with Derek Jeter (.334, 18 home runs), moving to the middle with Mark Teixiera (39 home runs, 122 RBIs) and Alex Rodriguez (.286, 30 home runs, 100 RBIs), and closes with Jorge Posada (.285, 22 home runs) and Robinson Cano (.320, 25 home runs, 85 RBIs), along with contributions from the rest of the team.
The Yankees also boast a top rotation, but it does have some question marks. CC Sabathia is undoubtedly the Game One starter, bouncing back from a rough opening to finish 19-7 in his rookie pinstripe debut. Behind him is A.J. Burnett, who had a less than stellar season, Andy Pettitte, who is getting up in age, and Joba Chamberlain, who is hot and cold. While the Yankees have a top bullpen, highlighted by closer Mariano Rivera (1.76 ERA, 44 saves), they need quality starts before they can turn to their late inning specialists.
The Yankees had the Twins’s number in 2009, sweeping them 7-0 by a combined score of 41-25. Minnesota also comes in having just used seven pitchers, including their ace Scott Baker and Nathan, making them weak and vulnerable in that area in Game One.
Brian Duensing will get the start tonight, but having a rookie pitch in New York is not an ideal situation. The Yankees seem to forget to show up in October, highlighted by Alex Rodriguez’s disappearance. The emergence of Teixiera, and free-agent addition Nick Swisher, along with regular contributions, should allow for a blanket of coverage.
While the Yankees have an optimal bullpen behind Phil Hughes and Phil Coke, they need quality innings from Sabathia, Burnett, and Pettite. Sabathia has over a 7.00 playoff ERA, Burnett went 0-4 in August, and Pettite is old. If Minnesota can wait them out, they could turn a head or two.
The Yankees starting this series on a Wednesday is advantageous to them, though Minnesota’s hitters will be fresh and ready to hit. Nevertheless, if the Yankees starting pitching is up to the challenge, then it’s the Yankees with a sweep.