Posted on October 3, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
The MLB Postseason officially gets underway Tuesday night with the American League Wild Card Game. For the second time in three years, the New York Yankees will host the Wild Card Game. Their opponent will be the Minnesota Twins, who went from buyers to sellers in a matter of days during the week before the trade deadline, only to get things turned around. The Twins broke away from a crowded race for the second wild-card spot to earn the right to play the Yankees for a spot in the ALDS.
Expectations and Aspirations
The approach of these teams heading into this game is drastically different. After losing 103 games last season, the Twins are just happy to still be playing. At the start of the year, they had little hope of reaching the postseason. Meanwhile, the Yankees will see themselves as bona fide contenders to reach the World Series. New York was disappointed not to have caught the Red Sox for the division, and the team will be even more disappointed with a loss in the wild-card game for the second time in three years.
One has to wonder if these two different approaches will have an impact on the players mentally. The Twins may be able to play loose as if they have nothing to lose. Meanwhile, the Yankees could be tight, knowing that the success or failure of their season rides on this one game.
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The Yankees have a few options for this matchup, but they’re going to put their season in the hands of 23-year old Luis Severino. After a rough 2016 season, Severino has lived up to his promise this year, going 14-6 with a 2.98 ERA. Aside from a lack of experience, there’s little doubt that he’s New York’s best pitcher. September has been Severino’s best month. In five starts, he’s 3-0 with a 2.10 ERA. However, in a start against the Twins less than two weeks ago, he gave up three runs in three innings of work, so Minnesota’s lineup will know they can get to him.
As for the Twins, there was only one choice, and it’s Ervin Santana. He’s been the undisputed ace of Minnesota’s rotation, going 16-8 with a 3.28 ERA. In a start against the Yankees last month, Santana only lasted 5.2 innings, giving up two runs on seven hits. However, Santana has five complete games this year, including three shutouts, so on any given day, he has the potential to carry his team to victory.
The X-factor in this game could be speed. Neither team is reliant on speed or stealing bases, as both have plenty of players who can hit the ball out of the park. But both teams could use the speed they have to gain an edge. During the game Santana started in New York last month, the Yankees stole four bases. At the same time, players like Byron Buxton could use their speed to help the Twins. If a young pitcher like Severino becomes too focused on hitters and fails to hold on runners, look for Minnesota to take advantage by attempting to steal a few bases.
It’s tough to bet against the Yankees, who are the Vegas favorites. In addition to being the home team, they are the better team, at least on paper. You don’t want to discount the chance that Santana throws a gem and the Twins pull a surprise. But the Yankees know what’s at stake and they swept the Twins in a three-game series less than two weeks ago. New York takes this one 8-2.