ARLINGTON, Texas — Late Friday night, what earlier in the week looked inevitable became official.
The Yankees will face the Twins in the American League Division Series, with Game 1 slated for next Friday at the Stadium.
There were no public utterances of joy expressed by anyone associated with the Yankees on Saturday, though given the recent history between the clubs, it would have made sense if there had been.
The Twins have lost their last 13 postseason games, 10 of those coming against the Yankees. The most recent was an 8-4 loss in the 2017 wild card game. Since 2002, including postseason games, the Yankees are an inconceivable 99-37 against the Twins.
Each year and each series, regular season and postseason, the verbiage is the same – this time will be different. Each time it is not.
“Yeah, I certainly dismiss that,” Aaron Boone said of the Yankees’ past success against Minnesota. “We know what they’re capable of and we know we have to execute. If we don’t execute, you’re in trouble against that team. So it comes down to we have to go play our best and if we do that, we’ll take our chances.”
The Yankees won this year’s season series, 4-2, with the most entertaining of the two series July 22-24 at Target Field. The Yankees took two of three in outscoring the Twins 30-27 and hitting eight homers to Minnesota’s 12. On July 23, the Yankees won, 14-12, in 10 innings. The Twins hit four homers to the Yankees’ two.
The matchup has the look of a slugfest. The clubs have been in a see-saw battle this month for the MLB lead in home runs, with both teams weeks ago surging past the single-season record of 267 set by the Yankees last season. Entering the regular-season finale for both teams on Sunday, the Yankees (103-58) have 305 and the Twins (101-60) have 304.
Nelson Cruz has hit 41 home runs, Max Kepler 36, Miguel Sano 34, Eddie Rosario 32 and Mitch Garver 31 for Minnesota. The Twins have scored 935 runs, second in the majors to the Yankees' 942.
“Really good lineup,” reliever Zack Britton said of the Twins, who are led by first-year manager Rocco Baldelli. “It’s going to be hopefully not a slugfest. Hopefully we pitch better than we did in that series [in July].”
While the Yankees are saying all the right things — and Saturday was the first of more than a few opportunities when they’ll be asked those same questions about their past dominance – the Twins are putting on a brave front.
Twins president Dave St. Peter called in to Minneapolis/St. Paul radio station SKOR North last week when it appeared that the Yankees-Twins matchup would be a sure thing.
“We obviously don’t get to pick who we play,” St. Peter said, according to the station’s website. “It certainly looks like it’ll be New York. We understand the history. That’s my history — it isn’t Rocco Baldelli’s history, it certainly isn’t Nelson Cruz’s history. So I think that’ll be overblown. Organizationally, I just say it’s time to slay the dragon, right?”
While the Yankees have questions in their rotation, they feature the sport’s deepest bullpen, something that has been an Achilles’ heel much of the season for the Twins, who also have a thin rotation after Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi.
“We look forward to the challenge,” St. Peter said. “I know people will look at our pitching staff and point to certain deficiencies — I mean, you frankly could argue the same thing about the Yankees. They’re going to arguably go with two openers in the postseason. So it’ll likely be high-scoring, particularly at Yankee Stadium. I think it’ll be fun. And I think this team’s offense has been not only resilient all year, but it’s also been pretty consistent … Let’s go. Bring 'em on. We don’t get to pick who we play. No time like the present to break that curse, so to speak.”
Game 1: Friday, at Yankees
Game 2: Saturday, at Yankees
Game 3: Monday, Oct. 7, at Twins
x-Game 4: Tuesday, Oct. 8, at Twins (FS1)
x-Game 5: Thursday, Oct. 10, at Yankees (FS1)
NOTE: Games 1, 2, 3 either FS1 or MLB-TV