This is what we have waited for all year long.
The 162 games. The day games, the night games, the winning streaks, the losing streaks, the walk-off wins, the pitching duels, the pies in the face, the grind, the blood, sweat, and tears. This is what eight teams have worked for since April.
After a dramatic finish in the 163rd game of the MLB season between the Twins and Tigers that saw Minnesota rally from being down 3-0 and 5-4 to win the A.L. Central 6-5 in 12 innings, it will be the Twins who get to travel to the Bronx to face the Yankees in the first round of the playoffs.
These two teams have met before in 2009, seven times. Their first series was back in May at Yankee Stadium.
May 15: Yankees won 5-4
May 16: Yankees won 6-4
May 17: Yankees won 3-2
May 18: Yankees won 7-6
The Yankees swept the four game series on three consecutive walk-off wins that some say turned the Yankees season around into the right direction. The two teams met again in early July in the Metrodome.
Jul. 7: Yankees won 10-2
Jul. 8: Yankees won 4-3
Jul. 9: Yankees won 6-4
The Yankees were in a good rhythm and swept the three game series in Minnesota and won every one of the seven games played against the Twins.
This isn't the first time the Yankees and the Twins have met in the American League Division Series.
In 2003, the Yankees defeated the Twins three games to one.
In 2004, the Yankees again defeated the Twins three games to one.
In both of those years, the Yankees advanced to the American League Championship Series and faced the Boston Red Sox.
2009 could be following a trend of 2003 and 2004 as well, but lets not get ahead just yet.
The lineups for each team could look like the following:
SS- Derek Jeter
LF- Johnny Damon
1B- Mark Teixeira
3B- Alex Rodriguez
DH- Hideki Matsui
C- Jorge Posada
RF- Nick Swisher
2B- Robinson Cano
CF- Melky Cabrera
CF- Denard Span
SS- Orlando Cabrera
C- Joe Mauer
RF- Jason Kubel
1B- Michael Cuddyer
LF- Delmon Young
DH- Jose Morales
3B- Matt Tolbert
2B- Nick Punto
The Yankees have a slightly stronger lineup than the Twins do, but as we all saw on Tuesday night, the Twins are feisty and won't go away. The Twins are without Justin Morneau due to a back injury. The Yankees will have Jose Molina catching A.J. Burnett's games and expect Brett Gardner to be in because of his speed element.
The starting pitching staffs for each team:
LHP- CC Sabathia
RHP- A.J. Burnett
LHP- Andy Pettitte
RHP- Joba Chamberlain
RHP- Chad Gaudin
RHP- Scott Baker
LHP- Mark Duensing
RHP- Nick Blackburn
RHP- Carl Pavano
LHP- Francisco Liriano
For this series, Chamberlain and Gaudin are expected to come out of the bullpen, so the Yankees will go with a three-man rotation in the ALDS, while Duensing and Blackburn are expected to pitch the first two games in the Bronx. It will be interesting to see if and when the most hated former Yankee in Pavano pitches against his former team.
Both teams have good bullpens with excellent closers in Mariano Rivera and Joe Nathan. However, Phil Hughes may be a better setup man than Jesse Crain, which could shorten the game up even more for the Yankees if they have a lead after the sixth or seventh innings.
The Twins had to fight and battle to the final day to get to a one game playoff, and then had to battle 12 innings to fight off the Tigers, so the Twins are probably exhausted beyond belief, while the Yankees are rested.
The Yankees are expected to win this series being they were picked as the favorites in the preseason to win a championship. 2009 has been a strong one for the Yankees and as long as they keep their momentum and focus from the season, I expect greater things from this Yankees team of 2009.
In the ALDS, I am picking the Yankees to win it three games to one.