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American League Division Playoffs: Twins Looking To Surprise the Yankees

Posted on October 06, 2009 by Dean Hybl

The Twins will look to continue their late season magic against the Yankees.

The Twins will look to continue their late season magic against the Yankees.

In a battle between two Cinderella’s, I guess it is fitting that the Minnesota Twins came away with the victory in their final season playing in the infamous Metrodome.

Of course they really don’t get much of a reward – or time to rest – as they now must quickly travel to New York City to face the Evil Empire known as the New York Yankees.

While the Twins have known for minutes that they would be continuing their season well into October, the Yankees have been preparing for the postseason since taking over first place in the American League East in mid-July.

Posting the best record in baseball at 103-59, the Yankees went 41-17 over the last 58 games and didn’t lose three in a row until the last days of the season.

But even the Yankees weren’t as hot over the final weeks of the season as the Minnesota Twins. Trailing the Detroit Tigers by seven games on September 6th, the Twins wouldn’t let the Tigers pull away and then won 17 of their final 21 games to claim their fifth division title in the last eight seasons.

New York Yankees Derek Jeter meets Mark Teixeira against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium in New York

Mark Teixeira was well worth his price tag for the Yankees.

Now the Twins are hopeful they can carry that momentum into a David vs. Goliath matchup with the Yankees. Not only did the Yankees win 16 more games in the regular season than the Twins, but they also swept the Twins during their seven meetings.

When the two teams met at Yankee Stadium in mid-May, the Yankees won all four games in dramatic fashion.

In the opener, they scored three runs off closer Joe Nathan in the ninth inning to win 5-4. They then won the next two games in extra innings. They then scored six runs in the first inning of the final game and held on for a 7-6 victory.

The three games the teams played in Minnesota in mid-July were not quite as dramatic as the Yankees won the first game 10-2 and then the next two 4-3 and 6-4.

During the seven meetings, New York’s pitching staff posted a 3.27 ERA while the Twins staff struggled with a 5.43 ERA. Offensively, the Yankees hit .300 and averaged 5.9 runs per game. The Twins averaged 3.6 runs and hit .232.

If the Twins hope to pull off the upset, they must turn around the pitching numbers and get the kind of timely hits they regularly received during the last three weeks of the season.

The late playoff push by the Twins is particularly impressive considering that they did it without their power hitting first baseman, Justin Morneau. The left-handed hitter was posting his typical big numbers (30 home runs, 100 RBI) when he was suddenly lost for the season in mid-September.

In his absence, as well as the absence of third baseman Joe Crede, the Twins amazingly rallied together and picked up the slack.

Catcher Joe Mauer, who himself missed the first month of the season, claimed his third batting title with a career-high .365 average. He also became a power hitter for the first time in his career and finished the season with 28 home runs (previous high was 13) and 96 RBI (previous high of 85). Many believe that Mauer is deserving of the American League MVP Award.

Rightfielder Michael Cuddyer (32 home runs, 94 RBI, .276 average) and designated hitter Jason Kubel (.300, 28 home runs, 103 RBI) were also key performers for the Twins down the stretch.

The Yankees bring their typical offensive firepower and the fact that they now play in a home run happy stadium doesn’t hurt their chances to pile up massive statistics.

Mauer’s primary competition for MVP will come from New York first baseman Mark Teixeira, who hit .292 with 39 home runs and 122 RBI in his first season with the Yankees.

Second baseman Robinson Cano (25 home runs, 85 RBI, .320) and shortstop Derek Jeter (.334, 18 HR, 66 RBI, 107 runs) give the Yankees amazing offensive production from their middle infielders. When you add in third baseman Alex Rodriguez (30 HR, 100 RBI, .286), the Yankees have one of the best infields in recent memory.

Seven of the nine New York regulars hit more than 20 home runs and drove in more than 80 runs. That production means that you never know from day-to-day which player could beat you.

The New York pitching staff is very solid, but not as deep or as star-studded as the offense.

Yankees-Orioles

C.C. Sabathia won 19 games in his first season with the Yankees.

C.C. Sabathia went 19-8 with a 3.37 ERA in his first season with the Yankees.  A.J. Burnett was 13-9 with a 4.04 ERA. Veteran Andy Pettitte finished the season with a 14-8 record and a 4.16 ERA. Hard throwing Jaba Chamberlain was 9-6 with a 4.75 ERA.

The bullpen remains strong, led by Alfredo Aceves (10-1, 3.54 ERA), Philip Hughes (8-3, 3.03 ERA) and Mariano Rivera (44 saves, 1.76 ERA).

The top starter for the Twins was Scott Barker (15-9, 4.37 ERA), but he pitched in the one-game playoff with the Tigers, so he will likely not pitch until later in the series.

Youngster Brian Duensing (5-2, 3.64 ERA) is expected to start in the first game. Ironically, another possible starter in the series is one-time Yankee bust Carl Pavano (5-4, 4.46 ERA).

The bullpen for the Twins is excellent led by Jose Mirajes (2-2, 2.34), Matt Guerrier (5-1, 2.26) and Joe Nathan (2-2, 2.15 ERA, 47 saves).

It would appear that the Yankees have too much firepower for the Twins to stop them. However, in a five game series, anything can happen. The Yankees have lost in the first round of the playoffs in their last three appearances and haven’t reached the American League Championship Series since 2004.

In its hay-day, the Metrodome willed the Twins to a pair of World Series titles. Who knows, there may still be a little magic left in the baggies. The Twins will certainly need it.


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