The New York Yankees are viewed as the team nobody wants to play in the postseason. With their explosive power and deep bullpen, the Yankees may have an excellent chance of adding to their historic legacy and advancing deep into the playoffs.
However, if that is going to happen, the Yankees are going to have to beat the Minnesota Twins in the wild-card playoff game Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium. The first pitch is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET and will be televised by ESPN.
The Twins were involved in a long fight for the No. 2 wild-card spot that lasted into late September. While teams like the Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Angels, Baltimore Orioles, Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers all looked threatening at times, the Twins outlasted them and earned the right to go to the postseason.
The Yankees battled the Boston Red Sox for the American League East title, and New York was not eliminated from division-title contention until Boston defeated the Houston Astros Saturday.
New York will send staff ace Luis Severino to the mound with the starting assignment. Severino had a 2.98 ERA along with 230 strikeouts for the season. Ervin Santana will start for the Twins, and he had an excellent 16-8 season with a 3.28 ERA.
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Twins tab Ervin Santana to pitch Wild-Card game as #Yankees eye potential playoff match-up in the Bronx: https://t.co/mPQQRi347k https://t.co/EfOPv2TH882017-9-28 19:12:25
While it's conceivable Santana can match or come close to Severino's performance in this game, the Yankees' bullpen gives them a big advantage in the pitching department. The Yankees are quite deep in that area, and manager Joe Girardi will have the option of using Dellin Betances, David Robertson and Aroldis Chapman in the last three innings to shut down the Twins.
The Yankees swept the Twins in a September series at Yankee Stadium, and they have dominated Minnesota in recent years. They have won the season series from the Twins in every season since 2007. They also eliminated the Twins from the postseason in four postseason series since 2003.
The Yankees also have dominant power bats in their lineup, including Aaron Judge (52 home runs), Gary Sanchez (33 HR), Todd Frazier (27 HR), Didi Gregorius (25 HR) and Brett Gardner (21 HR).
Judge has emerged from a summertime swoon with nine home runs in 12 games prior to the regular-season finale against the Toronto Blue Jays. Judge did not play in that game, a 2-1 Toronto victory.
Frazier knows Judge can take over any game or series. "The way he's swinging, he's got confidence, he's seeing pitches, he is taking his walks, he understands where he is at right now," Frazier said, per Kevin Kernan of the New York Post. "He's ready to go. It's going to be fun to watch."
The Twins are also a solid hitting team, and they have a top slugger in Brian Dozier, who belted 34 homers during the regular season. Miguel Sano (28 HR), Eddie Rosario (27 HR) and Eduardo Escobar (21 HR) are all capable of bombing the ball out of the ballpark.
The Yankees appear to be ahead of the curve because few expected them to be in the postseason this year. The Twins had even less support after a disastrous 2016 season (59-103).
Both teams are long shots to win the World Series, as the Yankees are plus-1,400 (wager $100 to earn a $1,400 profit), while the Twins are plus-2,800, according to OddsShark.
Even giving the Twins the benefit of the doubt with Santana on the mound, the Yankees have the advantage in the pitching department with their dominating bullpen. The Twins could turn to closer Matt Belisle if they have the lead in the ninth inning, but he has been quite underwhelming with nine saves in 14 opportunities and a 4.03 ERA.
Belisle's numbers have been better since Brandon Kintzler was traded to the Washington Nationals, but the Yankees may be chomping at the bit to get at him.
The Twins can make a game of it, but the Yankees have too much relief pitching, power and the home-field advantage. Look for the Yankees to survive and advance to the American League Division Series against the Cleveland Indians.