MINNEAPOLIS— Almost as soon as they took a two-games-to-none lead in their ALDS series against the Twins, the Yankees were quick to declare they hadn’t yet accomplished a thing.
“Pedal to the metal,” Aaron Judge said of the Yankees’ mindset going into Monday night’s Game 3 at Target Field that gave them opportunity to move on the ALCS.
No team wants to look ahead to the next round without officially finishing off their work in the current one, and the Yankees have experienced first-hand how a 2-0 lead deficit can be overcome.
As recently as 2017 against the Indians, the Yankees won three straight after dropping a pair of games in Cleveland to start the series. They have been ahead 2-0 six previous times in an ALDS, winning five times but, quite memorably, dropping the 1995 ALDS against the Mariners.
“We're in a good position,” manager Aaron Boone said. “We're in good shape, obviously, but it shifts venues now all of a sudden. We understand still what a really good team we're up against. So we're set up to, just with the off day and guys being rested, that we can shoot everything at you in a Game 3, and hopefully we're in a position to do that. So that feels good, but there's always that trepidation walking into a game knowing that it can get sideways at any point, too.”
Not that his team needs any reminders of the potential danger of letting an on-the-deck team get back up, but before the Yankees took the field Monday they got one in St. Petersburg, Florida, where the Rays hammered the Astros, 10-3, in Game 3 to extend that series.
Houston manager A.J. Hinch, not wanting to give Tampa any further hope, is going with Justin Verlander on short rest for Game 4, which then impacts how the ace righthander might be used in the ALCS, should the Astros advance.
Did watching that game, which Boone did, reiterate the importance of the Yankees closing things out as soon as possible?
“Oh, I don't know,” Boone said in his office before the game. “I mean, we want to win tonight, period. Whatever happens down there, I don't think changes what our expectations or our urgency or our desire is to clinch. You know, these are short series, things can change in a hurry. So hopefully we can go out and continue to play the way we're capable.”
The Yankees, despite having nearly a full five days off before starting this series, did not experience any of the rust that some teams that have that kind of time off do. They manhandled the Twins the first two games of the series, outscoring them 18-6.
“Good hitters,” Boone said in explaining the lack of rust. “I think the mindset and the focus, I think they appreciated the days we had down. I think we see that as more of a benefit. We're able to have a couple days where we had sim games going, where a few of our guys Edwin [Encarnacion] and Gary [Sanchez] and Giancarlo [Stanton] and Luke [Voit], some guys that were obviously coming back from injury and hadn't had a lot of at-bats were able to get a number of at-bats. I think that was helpful.”
Boone added: “But I think our guys are locked and ready to go, and this time of year, they look at those off days as really good recovery days and beneficial. I think we have that mindset, and I think that helps because they look forward to going out and playing when it matters.”