The Yankees and Twins will play each other in the ALDS starting Friday night. The Twins and the Yankees have a history in the playoffs, the two teams have met five times in the postseason with New York winning each matchup. The Twins have played under the radar all season, but they have a stellar record of 101-61. Minnesota’s offense has been led all season long by Nelson Cruz and Mitch Garver. Even though many Yankee fans may not know much about the Twins, they can be dangerous. If the Yankees want to advance to the ALCS, they must be virtually perfect.
The first way to beat the Twins is not to let Jose Berrios or Jake Odorizzi go deep into games. Both pitchers have been excellent this year, but their bullpen is one of the worst in the league. Berrios and Odorizzi both have sub-3.70 ERAs, but the back-end of their rotation does not have a pitcher with an ERA lower than 3.80. With Michael Pineda suspended, the Twins rotation isn’t as deep, and they lose their third-best starter. Without Pineda, Minnesota will need to lean on Kyle Gibson to pitch in Game 3. Gibson has been very inconsistent all year, which is not a recipe for success in the postseason. If the Yankees can knock the Twins starters out of games early, they will be able to have a relatively easy ALDS.
Another key for the Yankees is to neutralize Nelson Cruz and Mitch Garver. Cruz has been an excellent free-agent signing this year with a .392 OBP, 41 HRs, and a 1.031 OPS. He is the Twins big bat in the lineup, and he can frustrate opposing pitchers. Mitch Garver is an unknown in casual baseball circles, but he’s a name to look out for. Garver has a wicked bat with a .365 OBP, 31 HRs, and a .995 OPS. Even though Cruz and Garver’s insane seasons have not been publicized because of the Minnesota market, they can put a serious dent in the Yankees postseason plans. If Cruz and Garver are neutralized, the Twins offense will slow to a halt.
If the Twins want a chance to defeat the Bronx Bombers, they’ll need to take advantage of the lesser Yankees pitchers. The Yankees don’t have many glaring weaknesses, but their bullpen is very top-heavy. J.A. Happ was moved to the bullpen, and if he doesn’t keep up his streak of good pitching, it will put the Yankees at the risk of elimination. Aaron Boone going to Adam Ottavino and Zach Britton late in games must be avoided. Both pitchers have terrible control issues with Ottavino having a 14.1 BB% and Britton having a 13.1 BB%. They need to avoid giving up free bases and make the Minnesota offense work for it.
The Yankees are favored in the ALDS for a reason, but this will most likely be a long series. Each team features some high powered offense, so expect a lot of long-balls. The Yankees-Twins series should feature a lot of close games, but if they listen to our tips, they should be penciled in for the ALCS.