The Minnesota Twins will be heading to the American League Divisional Series for the first time since the 2010 season next week and excitement is in the air as to what this team can do in a five-game series. As opposed to the one-game wild card playoff that the Twins were in after the 2017 season, there will be many ebbs and flows and Target Field will host a playoff game for just the third time in its existence.
All of this is great, but the Twins opponent in the ALDS was finalized on Friday night and it's understandable if some fans have some PTSD because of it.
That opponent is the New York Yankees, who have played a large role in the Twins' previous postseason failures. Entering the five-game series which is slated to start on Oct. 4, Minnesota has lost an MLB record 13 straight postseason games. Ten of those losses have come against the Bronx Bombers, including a meeting in the 2017 AL Wild Card game.
That history is enough to give flashbacks of Joe Nathan nervously flapping his lips at Yankee Stadium or Phil Cuzzi daydreaming while Joe Mauer laced a ball about 10 feet fair during a Game 2 meeting in the 2009 ALDS. Heck, ESPN will probably get in on the fun wondering how the Twins can come out of this series alive. But I am here to tell you that there is nothing to fear when it comes to the Yankees.
Yes, the Yankees do have an incredibly powerful lineup spearheaded by Aaron Judge. New York also has enjoyed breakout seasons from several young players including Gleybar Torres and Luke Voit, and they're also getting Giancarlo Stanton back after he missed a majority of the 2019 season.
But, this Twins team isn't much different from the Yankees this time around. The Yankees may have eclipsed the Twins in home runs at 305, but the 303 home runs Minnesota has hit out of the park isn't much to laugh at. In fact, the Twins have more depth than the Yankees do with an MLB record eight players with 20 or more home runs.
That means the Yankees will have more threats to deal with going through the Twins lineup and that's bad news for a pitching staff that's just as banged up as the Twins. Only one of the Yankees' five starters this year has an ERA under 4.00 (James Paxton) and another, Domingo German, was just lost for the season after violating the MLB's domestic violence policy.
While the Twins have similar issues in their playoff rotation hoping that Jake Odorizzi, Jose Berrios, Randy Dobnak and Johnny Bullpen can handle the load, the real advantage (as crazy as this would have sounded in June) is their bullpen.
Tyler Duffey hasn't allowed an earned run in his last 23.2 innings and Taylor Rogers, with 29 saves in hand, has emerged as one of baseball's best relievers. Trevor May, Zack Littell and others have also stepped up in a big way, and Sergio Romo was a great addition at the trade deadline.
Meanwhile, the Yankees still have the best closer in the game in Aroldis Chapman and a great set-up combination with Zach Britton and Adam Ottavino, but the rest of their 'pen is falling apart. Dylan Betances hasn't pitched all year and is now dealing with a partially ruptured Achilles, and Tommy Kahnle and Chad Green haven't been as unhittable as they have in the past.
All of this is why the Twins should be able to stack up with New York despite holding a 2-4 record against the Yankees this season. That record could have easily have been .500 had Aaron Hicks not made a highlight-reel catch to end a 14-12 masterpiece at Target Field last July, and if the Twins can get to their bullpen with a lead, there is no reason that the Twins can't "shock the world" and reach the ALCS for the first time since 2002.