The MLB playoffs begin on Tuesday night in the Bronx where the New York Yankees will host the Minnesota Twins in the American League Wild Card.
Both teams carry momentum into this clash. The Twins finished 32-21 in their last 53 and the Yankees nearly caught up to Boston in the AL East before coming up just short when Boston clinched in game 161. Now, they face-off in a single game to determine who will advance to face the Cleveland Indians in the AL Divisional Series.
Ervin Santana the Luis Severino were teammates on the Dominican Republic’s 2017 World Baseball Classic team way back in March. That Dominican team disappointed in the third-ever WBC but both Santana and Severino enjoyed breakout seasons, despite being at vastly different points in their careers.
Santana, who turns 35 later this year, threw over 200 innings for the sixth time in his career; the only pitcher in the American League who threw more was Chris Sale. Santana’s 3.28 ERA was his second-best in 13 big league seasons; his 16 wins were the seventh-best in the American League; and five complete led all of baseball, along with Corey Kluber.
At 23 years of age, Servino made his first All-Star team this season. He finished right around some impressive marks, especially for a starting pitcher: a 3.00 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and .200 opponent’s batting average. His 2.98 ERA and 1.04 WHIP both ranked third in the AL and his 230 strikeouts fourth. The Yankees won Severino’s last five starts and seven of his last eight.
But while the numbers from both starters look fairly even, the situation for each will be different on Tuesday night. Santana has a weak bullpen behind him, one that was bad even before the Twins’ front office traded Brandon Kintzler before the July trade deadline. The Yankees, on the other hand, acquired two stud relief pitchers at the deadline to go along with Adam Warren, Chad Green, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman, with the playoffs in mind. If Severino gets into trouble, Joe Girardi won’t hesitate to make a move. That should give his young starter more leeway to nibble and play with pitch count, while Santana knows must go deep into the ballgame.
The Twins will also likely be without Miguel Sano, who returned this weekend earlier than what was once thought, but missed a team workout at Yankee Stadium on Monday. It now appears doubtful that he will as much as DH on Tuesday, though he will be available to pinch-hit.
Most all signs point to the Yankees winning this game, even recent history. New York has eliminated the Twins from four of their last five postseason appearances, dating back 15 years ago. But this Twins team isn’t old enough to remember that and Paul Molitor wasn’t in charge, either. And at 2-to-1, I’m willing to bet this year’s playoffs start off with a Cinderella victory.
Free Pick: Minnesota +220