New York media can be ruthless, especially when talking about the Yankees and Twins.
The Twins, often referred to in the New York Post as the Yankees' "personal punching bag," will undoubtedly be going to New York for a best-of-five series against a familiar foe, albeit with plenty of fresh faces on both sides.
Since 2003, the Twins have faced the Yankees five times in the playoffs, with the Bronx Bombers dominating the underdogs from Minnesota to the tune of 13 wins and two losses.
But the tune in New York appears to be changing.
In Thursday's New York Post, there is a story with this encouraging headline: "Why Yankees' playoff dominance of Twins may be in danger."
That alone is a significant change from just five months ago, when the opening line after a May 3 game between the Twins and Yankees said "Perhaps nothing solves the Yankees’ problems more than a visit from the Twins."
Citing Minnesota's improved bullpen, MLB-best road record (53-25), and finally an ability to hit the ball over the fence, the Posts' Ken Davidoff believes the 2019 Twins cold prove to be a "considerably tougher opponent than their predecessors."
"The past Twins teams just couldn’t keep up with the Yankees when it came to changing the game with one swing. The closest previous regular-season homer gap between these clubs occurred in 2017, when the Yankees went deep 241 times and the Twins 206. Through 159 games this season, however, the Twins have gone deep 301 times, an all-time record, and the Yankees 299."
Here's another angle to consider when trying to forecast the series: New York's pitching rotation for the playoffs could favor the Twins, especially after James Paxton, who was projected to be the Game 1 starter, left his start Friday night with tightness in his left glute.
- Game 1: James Paxton
- Game 2: Luis Severino
- Game 3: Masahiro Tanaka
That's the projected rotation, which makes very little sense to me considering it will force Tanaka to pitch Game 3 at Target Field. Tanaka can be really good, but that's usually only the case when he pitches at home, where he has a 3.10 ERA in 16 starts. On the road, Tanaka is awful, posting a 6.16 ERA in 15 starts.
That's great news for the Twins. Paxton is going to be really hard on Minnesota in Game 1. The lefty has a 0.91 ERA in his past five starts, allowing just three earned runs in nearly 30 innings of work. But Severino in Game 2 could also favor the Twins.
Remember the 2017 wild-card game? Severino didn't make it out of the first inning as the Twins pounded him, including a two-run homer by Eddie Rosario. Severino is two years older and still very good, but he's pitched just nine innings after rehabbing an arm injury most of the season.
Those nine innings were against the Angels and Blue Jays, whom he dominated. But the Angels and Blue Jays don't roll out lineups with mashers like the Twins do.
If I were managing the Yankees, I'd start Tanaka in Game 2 and let Severino start the road game in Minneapolis. But hey, if New York goes Paxton-Severino-Tanaka, that's probably good news for the Twins.
This series doesn't have the makings of a blowout for either team, but if the Twins can steal one in New York they'll have a great chance with the series headed back to Target Field for Games 3 and 4.
Game 1 of the series is expected to be Friday in New York.