Aaron Judge, Nelson Cruz
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

The New York Yankees start the chase for their 28th World Championship at home vs. the Minnesota Twins in the 2019 ALDS.

Dom Renna

For the first time since 2012, the New York Yankees are not facing the do-or-die wild-card game. Instead, they posted a 103-59 record while winning the American League East, setting up for what many hope is a long playoff run.

The expectations were there from day one for the Bronx Bombers after falling to the Red Sox in the ALDS a year ago, but a plethora of injuries all throughout the season brought significant question marks to whether or not this team could contend. Even with all of the questions, second-year manager Aaron Boone successfully managed his team to buy into the “next man up” mantra while leading New York to their best season since 2009.

For Minnesota, this year came as a bit of a surprise for them considering how they failed to make the playoffs in 2018 following their loss to the Bombers in 2017 Wild Card game. Led by first-year manager Rocco Baldelli, Minnesota posted a 101-61 record winning the American League Central.

This series marks the sixth time the two clubs will face off in the postseason and is a matchup in which the Yankees have dominated, going 13-2 in the postseason vs. Minnesota dating back to 2003. Both clubs will be looking to make a statement with Minnesota trying to eliminate their New York storyline, and the Yankees trying to show the regular season was not a fluke.

It all adds up for what should be a great series, here is everything you need to know.

Series Schedule

GameDate and TimeChannel
Game 1 Friday Oct. 4 @ 7:07MLB Network
Game 2Saturday Oct. 5 @ 5:07FS1
Game 3Monday, Oct. 7 TBDTBD (FS1)
Game 4Tuesday, Oct. 8 TBDFS1
Game 5Thursday Oct. 10 TBDFS1

Power, Power, and More Power

When the Yankees and Twins square off, the one thing both teams bring a ton of is power. The two battled it out for the top spot on the home run list with Minnesota edging out New York, belting 307 home runs to the Yankees 306 in the regular season. Minnesota deploys eight players who hit over 20 home runs this year, along with five hitting 30 or more bombs. New York, on the other hand, saw seven players with 20 homers along with 14 players hit at least 10.

It doesn’t just start and end with the long ball, though; both teams were the top two teams in the league at hitting with runners in scoring position. The Yankees led all of baseball with a .294 average with runners in scoring position while Minnesota sat right behind them at .292, showing that it’s not just home run or bust with them. The only difference between the two, here, is how the Bombers scored 26 more runs in this situation in 2019.

DJ LeMahieu led the way for the bombers this year, leading the Bombers in hits, batting average, RBI and runs, in what was a remarkable first season in the Bronx for him. He single-handedly changed the entire way this Yankee lineup looked with LeMahieu being more of a contact hitter, creating a different look compared to the predominantly power heavy lineup New York deployed a year ago. Along with DJ, the Yankees still have the likes of Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, a healthy Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez and many other powerful names at their disposal.

The Twins are led by 38-year-old Nelson Cruz, who posted the best year of his career with a career-high 41 home runs to go with a .311 batting average, his highest since 2015. Along with Cruz, Minnesota has plenty of supporting characters in Miguel Sano, Max Keppler, Eddie Rosario and Mitch Garver. You could make the case that they are arguably much more of a threat this year than they were in the Wild Card game two years ago and shouldn’t be taken lightly. If any Yankee pitcher is not on their “A” game, they have to quickly find something because the Twins will do major damage.

Pitching Might Struggle In This One

James Paxton is set to get the ball for the Yankees in Game 1 against Jose Berrios who picked up 195 strikeouts in 200.1 innings for the Twins this year. He led their rotation in innings pitched. Paxton, on the other hand, had a very up and down year in the Bronx battling a knee injury in the first half. The second half; however, we saw why the Yankees went out and acquired the veteran lefty who just simply dominated the league down the stretch.

After Paxton, the Yankees will go with Masahiro Tanaka in Game 2 and Luis Severino in Game 3, potentially setting up Tanaka to pitch in a Game 5 if it needs to get that far. Tanaka stepped up this year as the Yankees’ and has a boatload of success starting in big games for the Bombers. Severino came back strong in his three starts off the injured list after missing all season, looking really strong and ready for a long postseason run. Jake Odorizzi and Kyle Gibson are likely to follow Berrios for Minnesota.

In the postseason, expect Yankees’ manager Aaron Boone to be very aggressive with his bullpen usage. New York did a fantastic job at keeping the likes of Adam Ottavino, Zack Britton, Tommy Kahnle and Aroldis Chapman fresh down the stretch. Their limited usage in September will have them well-rested for the time of year where relievers make their money entering the game at all different times.

Minnesota posted a 4.17 bullpen ERA while the Yankees finished the year with a 4.08 ERA. While that number is significantly lower compared to last year’s 3.38 pen ERA, they still were able to finish in the top 10 in that category. A more telling stat of how important the Bombers’ bullpen is comes via their 7.5 WAR that ranks second in all of baseball ahead of Minnesota’s 7.3.

While the Twins might have the upper hand with their rotation, (4.19 starters ERA) compared to the Yankees (4.51 starters ERA), the Yankees make up for it with their pen usage when they need a big pitch.

Series Predictions and Outlook

This series is almost destined to go the entire five games due to how similar these two teams are. Both rely on the home run ball while putting up average pitching from their rotation and relying heavily on their pens. It just makes too much sense for this one to go all the way considering how neither team does anything better than each other.

With that said, Minnesota’s roster lacks a great deal of playoff experience with Nelson Cruz having the most on the team. At some point, that experience has to play a factor in a series, especially one that features a first-year manager in Rocco Baldelli. Even though the Yankees roster posses some inexperience, they’ve built up enough experience over the last two years and with all of the injuries/adversity they placed they seem poised to move onto the ALCS.

Prediction: Yankees in five games

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Dominick is a graduate of Canisius College. He has covered the Rangers for the last seven seasons and the Yankees for the last four.