With less than 20 games left the Minnesota Twins have a 97% probability of winning the AL Central and a 99.4% probability of making the postseason. After a lackluster 2018, the Rocco Baldelli-led club is going to win 90+ games and represent the division in October. As injuries have piled up, and the 25-man roster has taken a hit, a deep postseason run becomes a bit tougher to dream on. For Minnesota though, the optimal road goes through New York.
Let’s get this out of the way right now: This Twins team hasn’t lost anything to the Yankees. None of these guys care about what Ron Gardenhire’s clubs did against the Evil Empire, and I can guarantee no one in the current clubhouse is worried about what wins and losses took place a decade ago. Let’s view this through the lens of relevance in the here and now.
Chasing down the best record in the American League, the only thing in New York’s way is the Houston Astros. Besting a rotation bolstered by Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, and Zack Greinke in a five or seven game series seems near impossible. That isn’t just a Minnesota hurdle, but one that makes Houston the odds-on favorite to win the World Series regardless of who they play. The best way for the Twins to generate positive momentum is an ALDS victory, and the most optimal way for that to occur is a few wins in the Bronx.
So why the Yankees? I’m glad you asked.
Does it stink that the Twins won’t be able to turn to Michael Pineda at any point? Certainly. Do they need Jose Berrios and a few of his co-workers to step up? Certainly. Are they going to have opportunity against a New York group that owns the 19th rotation in baseball, and 15th since August first? Absolutely.
James Paxton has had a lackluster 2019, but he’s been exceptional of late. A 2.57 ERA since August 2nd is the type of arm the Yankees intended to acquire. As a game one type pitcher, he’s everything you could hope for. From there, Aaron Boone has Masahiro Tanaka, Domingo German, and J.A. Happ. That trio has as many warts (if not more) than the group Minnesota would call upon to oppose them. The Twins may not see Happ in an effort to keep a lefty off the hill, but the lineup can certainly bang through any of those arms.
It’s kind of weird to think a group with Aroldis Chapman, Adam Ottavino, and Zack Britton could be bested but Minnesota is doing that just now. Since the trade deadline only the Tampa Bay Rays have a better relief corps than Wes Johnson’s group. The Twins don’t have the names, but Sergio Romo has bolstered an internal group anchored by the likes of Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey, and Trevor May.
Realistically the Twins need to be able to get something from Sam Dyson. Knowing October games will be shortened by relief arms getting extended work, Baldelli needs the ability to turn to his recently acquired help. Hopefully the Twins can get his biceps soreness right over the next couple of weeks and get him back in the fold.
New York is going to get better with the additions of Dellin Betances and Luis Severino. There’s no denying their group has the bigger names and more trustworthy performances. Because Minnesota started the year with so many question marks doesn’t make that a reality now though, and this collection of Twins' relievers can get the best of them.
After setting the major league record in home runs for a single season, it’s easy to call the Bomba Squad a force to be reckoned with. The Yankees are the one team that holds a candle to that power though, trailing in the same stat by just single digits. The collection often known as the Bombers have plenty of pop on their own, but there’s also a level of uncertainty.
Left fielder Mike Tauchman was just lost for the year, and former Minnesota outfielder Aaron Hicks is still on the shelf. Edwin Encarnacion and Gio Urshella recently returned to active duty, but they both need to work their way back in (Edwin appears to be acclimating just fine). Much like the Twins, there aren’t many holes in this group one through nine, but they’re also a team that can be hung with.
The two squads are separated by less than 10 runs in total run differential, and despite a few game difference in the win column, that’s indicative of how similar they are.
It’s obvious that the Twins need to get healthy. The Minnesota lineup needs a full go Nelson Cruz, Miguel Sano, and Max Kepler. Jake Cave being back with Marin Gonzalez are also must have additions. There’s no denying that the current Rocco Baldelli group isn’t in an optimal spot. Fast forward two weeks though and getting proper rest and healing would leave about a week of runway prior to the postseason. If the organization can prioritize health, and mix in some winning along the way, then October gets significantly brighter.
The rotation was going to need to step up in big spots regardless of who was available. Health is more important than the loss of Pineda, and stealing games is going to need to happen against the Astros rotation regardless. The Twins are as good as the Yankees in 2019 and establishing that during the ALDS would go a long way for the sake of momentum.
Winning the World Series is difficult. One team out of thirty ends their season on a winning note. Not all organizations have the same probability, and even being among the final ten teams, odds are stacked in a few teams' favor. If you’re a Twins fan down the stretch though, you should be a Houston fan as well. Let the October road begin in New York and grab a big series victory before giving World Series favorite Houston all you have.
This story originally appeared at Twins Daily and was redistributed on Bring Me The News as part of an affiliate network.