There aren’t many years when I would look at the Twins schedule over the final week of the season, see a series with the Yankees, and be happy to see it, but that’s the case this year. The Twins are playing for virtually nothing other than the chance to be a spoiler, while the Yanks are clinging precariously to their perch atop the AL East standings.
The Twins no longer even have to worry about the whole, “will we lose 100 games?” thing anymore. The worst they can do now would be to repeat last season’s 99-loss debacle.
New York, on the other hand, has just a one-game lead over the Orioles and, in case anyone has forgotten, this year it matters whether they win their division or drop to a Wild Card spot. Twins fans likely have still not forgotten 2010, when the Yankees pretty much intentionally lost enough games down the stretch to hand the Rays the AL East title, in order to gain what they believed (and rightfully so) to be a more advantageous first round match-up against the Twins than they felt they would have against the Rangers.
This year, however, there’s a one-game “play-in” game that the Wild Card teams have to survive, just to move in to the “real” League Division Series.
And this year, the Twins have an opportunity to knock the Yankees off their pedestal before the postseason even gets underway.
Of course, it won’t be easy. The Twins will send three starting pitchers to the mound this series that most Yankee fans have probably never even heard of. I’m not sure even the Yankee players have heard of Liam Hendriks, Esmerling Vasquez, and Sam Deduno. Deduno will be pitching on just three days’ rest, thanks to a very short 2.1 inning performance on Saturday. The Yankees pitchers are somewhat more familiar. Andy Pettitte goes tonight, followed by Phil Hughes and CC Sabathia.
So how can Twins fans even imagine our guys giving the Orioles any help this week? Why shouldn’t we expect the vaunted Yankee lineup to just steamroll the Twins’ AAA-level starting pitching?
First of all, this Yankee lineup will not be confused with the ’27 Yankees. In fact, it wouldn’t be confused with the 2010 Yankees. Some of the names are the same, but not all… and some that are the same are hardly looking like their younger versions.
Yes, Derek Jeter is still there, as are Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson. But Jeter, while still hitting for a very nice average, has been slowed a bit by an ankle injury recently and DH’d two of the three games against Oakland this past weekend. Cano is still as dangerous as ever, but A-Rod and Granderson are simply not performing like Yankee superstars are supposed to perform. On the other hand, Ichiro seems to have found new life lately. In fact, from what I’ve watched, if it weren’t for Ichiro, the Yankees would already be looking up at the O’s in the standings.
But the rest of the Yankees batting order has been made up of names like Swisher and Nunez and Ibanez and McGhee and Nix and (Andruw) Jones and Martin and Stewart. Most of them may be very serviceable Major League ballplayers, but they will not (or at least should not) strike fear in the hearts of Twins pitchers… or even Red Wings pitchers.
Maybe all three Yankee starting pitchers will mow down Twins hitters and throw three consecutive complete games. We know the Twins are certainly capable of using nothing but assbats for several games in a row. If that happens, yes, this series could be real ugly. However, if any of the games turn in to bullpen battles, you have to like the Twins’ chances a bit more.
Maybe there are enough new Twins in the batting order who are not aware of the Clubhouse myth that the Yankees simply can not be beaten by the Twins… ever. If so, then maybe there’s a chance our guys could help out my “other favorite team,” the Orioles, this week.
I would love to see the Yankees have to survive a play-in game against the Athletics (or better yet, NOT survive that play-in game) just to move on to the ALDS. Admit it, so would you.
Iowa Boy Makes Good
It just wouldn’t be right if I didn’t acknowledge and congratulate fellow Iowan and Twins minor league pitcher BJ Hermsen this week. Hermsen was named the Twins’ minor league organization’s Pitcher of the Year recently. Hermsen hails West Delaware HS, about an hour from Cedar Rapids and has quite a following in the area. During his tour with the Beloit Snappers on his way up the organizational ladder, Hermsen made a small number of starts in Cedar Rapids against the Kernels and the stands behind the visitors dugout were always packed with his friends, family and fans.
I met BJ and his dad during his first Spring Training after being drafted out of high school by the Twins and both men could not have been friendlier. It’s great to see good people get recognized and here’s hoping Hermsen continues to progress professionally and can “pitch in” to help the Twins fill out their rotation at some point in the future.