The Minnesota Twins Great Dilemma
The Minnesota Twins have a great dilemma. With a four-game lead over the Cleveland Indians and nine games to play it is safe to say the Twins will win the American League Central Division. The Twins have six games against the Kansas City Royals and three against the Detroit Tigers. While the Indians have three games each against the Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago White Sox, and the Washington Nationals.
To say the Twins have the easier remaining schedule would be an understatement. But as they say, “anything can happen in baseball” and “that’s why they play the games.” But it would be difficult for the Twins and their fans to not start to look ahead and the two 100 win monsters ahead.
The Bronx Bombers
There has not been one team that has given the Twins more playoff pain than the New York Yankees. In 2017 the Twins lost the wildcard game to the Yankees 8-4 when pitcher Ervin Santana could not hold a 3-0 first-inning lead. In both 2009 and 2010, the Yankees swept the Twins in the AL Division Series. In both 2003 and 2004, the Twins won game one of the AL Division Series but then proceeded to lose the next three games.
To say the Twins fanbase wants no part of the Yankees in the playoffs would be an understatement. In the six games vs the Yankees this year the Twins have a record of 2-4. The three-game series in Minnesota in July was memorable for the number of runs scored and HR’s hit. The two teams combined to hit 20 HR and score 57 runs. To put this in perspective over the course of the 28 innings played in that series the teams combined to average over two runs per inning.
Pain in the Astros
The other monster in the room is the Houston Astros. The Twins and Astros have never met in the postseason. The two teams have played seven games this season with the Twins winning the series four games to three. But the last game played between these two teams this season was on May 2nd. Since that game, the Astros have traded for all-star pitcher Zack Greinke and rookie sensation Yordan Alvarez has taken the league by storm.
The Astros won the World Series in 2017 and have won 100 games for three straight seasons. No other major league team has ever done that. In the year of the HR, the Astros do present another problem aside from their offensive prowess. The Astros have three ace pitchers atop their starting rotation. Justin Verlander is a former Cy Young winner and the MVP of the 2017 ALCS. Gerrit Cole has 300 strikeouts this season and Greinke is also a former Cy Young winner.
Tale of the Tape
The Twins, Yankees, and Astros all rank in the top three of every major offensive category in the American League. All of these teams can score runs. The baseball has been flying out of ballparks so much this year that an all-time record for HR’s hit has already been set. The Twins are the first team in history to have five players hit 30 HR. Overall the Twins have 12 players with double-digit dingers. In comparison, The Astros have 10 players in double digits with three over 30 and the Yankees have 13 in double digits with two over 30.
But when you look at the pitching numbers this is where the Astros pull ahead of both teams. The Astros are third in the American League in ERA at 3.71 and are a half-run better than both the Twins and Yankees. The Astros lead the league in WHIP at 1.14. The Twins and Yankees are both at 1.30. Additionally, the Astros lead the league in strikeouts leading the Yankees by over 100 and the Twins by 200.
Currently, the Twins have 94 wins. This is the most since the 2006 team won 96 games. With nine games left it is easy to assume the Twins can pass that total. The Twins postseason roster looks set. The Twins golden glove centerfielder Byron Buxton is out for the season with a shoulder injury. Starting pitcher Michael Pineda has been suspended for the remainder of the season for violating the performance-enhancing drug agreement. Relief pitcher Sam Dyson’s season is in doubt due to a bicep injury. However, since the Twins acquired Dyson from the Giants on July 31st he has not been effective.
The playoff rotation should have Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi starting the first two games. The third game is not so certain. The Twins do have an advantage down the stretch. With the division all but locked up and with no real chance at the best record the Twins can rest up their starters and set their pitching up any way they want.
Everyone knows about the number of injuries the Yankees have had to endure this season. For this reason, it is difficult to fill out a postseason roster for the Yankees. With nine games left time is running out on getting hurt players healthy. The Yankees are still chasing the best overall record but you have to wonder if having that one extra home game is more important than ensuring your team is healthy and fresh for the playoffs. Catcher Gary Sanchez and DH Edwin Encarnacion might not play again in the regular season. Mike Tauchman, Aaron Hicks, Greg Bird, and Miguel Andujar are all out for the season.
Set up man Dellin Betances who had not pitched this season until last week hurt his Achilles and is now out for the season. Outfielder Giancarlo Stanton has just returned to the team after over two months on the injured list. Ace pitcher Luis Severino returned this week and pitched four scoreless innings in his season debut. His role in the playoffs is not yet known. Starting pitcher Domingo German is not active due to legal issues.
The Astros are just three wins away from tying their franchise record. Having the best record and home-field advantage is very important to the Astros so we could see them set a new team record in wins. All-star shortstop Carlos Correa just returned to the lineup this week after his second stint on the injured list. Aside from that the rest of the Astros lineup is in place.
After the big three starting pitchers and the dependable Wade Miley, the Astros rotation is set. Lance McCullers Jr., Collin McHugh, and Aaron Sanchez are all out for the season. But Brad Peacock could eat some innings if he comes back healthy in the next 10 days. Key reliever Ryan Pressly is set to return any day now. The Astros have a solid bullpen and the blueprint is for their starting pitchers to go deep into the game.
Twins Pick Your Poison
Both the Yankees and Astros have great teams with two distinctly different strengths. The Yankees want to get the early lead and turn the game over to their talented and deep bullpen. The Astros have the superior starting pitching led by a future Hall Of Famer. There is no shortage of star power with either team. This Twins team has been game all year long and is not afraid to stand toe to toe with either team.
No matter who the Twins play in the ALDS we could see lots of offense and lots of home runs hit. If you like offense this years American League playoffs will showcase that. The Twins could be potentially looking at a trifecta of dominant teams standing in their way of a world championship. It is possible the Twins would have to beat both the Yankees and the Astros in route to a potential matchup with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series.
But we are way ahead of ourselves. First stop is the ALDS. Yankees or Astros. Take your pick.