@jakedepue Okay, Judd, we’re less than 24 hours from first pitch. I think this will be an epic series. These teams are mirror images of each other. Potent, power-hitting offenses, strong bullpens, and some questions in the starting rotation. I see three keys to this series for the Twins:
1. Jose Berrios needs to get through six in Game 1. Even if the Twins don’t ultimately win that game, it’s critical that he goes deep because of the prospect of a bullpen game in Game 2. If Twins relievers have to fire a bunch of bullets in Game 1, it makes it much more difficult to pull off a ‘pen game on Saturday.
2. Health. The Twins have been very tight-lipped on injuries, but reading between the lines of this Thad Levine quote
, it sounds to me like the Twins have several players who aren’t 100%, but will play. This may include Kepler, Gonzalez, and Cron, and certainly includes Arraez. It’s encouraging that all of them may give it a go, but it’s also concerning if they’re not really healthy. At some point, the Twins have to weigh playing someone like Kepler at 70%, or Jake Cave at 100%. That’s not an easy decision, but I think for the Twins to have a realistic shot, they probably have to let it ride with their best players and see where it takes them.
3. Defense. The offense has gotten a lot of publicity all year, and for good reason. It’s been incredible. But the defense has been, in my view, below average this year. Rocco Baldelli came as close to calling out his players as he’s maybe done all year in August in Milwaukee, when he said the Twins have given away too many outs
in the second half. Sano and Polanco on the left side, in particular, have had their ups and downs. Both are game-changers at the plate, but they need to make the routine plays in this series for the Twins to come out on top. I’m paraphrasing, but Nelson Cruz recently said something to the effect of, “We need to play clean baseball to win in October.” I couldn’t agree more. They don’t need to be spectacular, but they need to give the offense a chance to put the game away.
What do you think are the keys to this series?
@jzulgad: All good points and I really feel that going with Berrios in Game 1 is the wise move because you are going to need him to emerge if you are going to have any shot at making a deep playoff run. The Twins’ situation with health isn’t ideal but they are going to need to rely on guys who have been banged up and hope for the best. Kepler, Gonzalez and Arraez have been key to the Twins’ success in 2019 and they aren’t going to win a playoff series with contributions from at least a couple of them.
The one thing you didn’t bring up, but is definitely key, is the bullpen. The Twins deserve a lot of credit for retooling the bullpen in-season, and Sergio Romo has been a key addition. Let’s not talk about Sam Dyson right now. But I have a feeling that the Yankees are confident they have the better bullpen and that they can shut down the Twins if their starter can give them, say, five innings. Well, the Twins are going to have to match that. It might not be easy, but if guys like Tyler Duffey and Trevor May fall back to earth, the Yankees are going to win this series.
JD: No question. Duffey, Romo, and May all have to be what they’ve been in August and September. In other words, lights out. They’re certainly capable of that. Duffey and May have no playoff experience. And while I don’t buy the narrative that the Twins will be intimidated by New York, Yankee Stadium, past Twins failures etc., I do buy the notion that playoff experience matters. They certainly have some offensively (Cruz, Gonzalez, Schoop, Cron), but not much on the pitching side. Do you worry at all that Berrios, Dobnak, Duffey, May, Rogers et al., who have little to no playoff experience, will be overwhelmed by the moment? Or is that overthinking it?
JZ: Don’t forget that Jake Odorizzi also has no experience pitching in the playoffs. I don’t think you can dismiss the fact that the moment could get rather big for guys who have never pitched in this spotlight before, but that’s where guys like Nelson Cruz, Marwin Gonzalez and Romo, probably most importantly, will bring a calmness that comes with their experience. I’m more worried about Rogers being used too much because we know what happens when that occurs. I’m so interested to see how Berrios handles Game 1 because I think that’s going to be huge. But let’s say he gives up four runs in six innings, the Twins offense should be in good shape unless James Paxton absolutely shoves.
JD: Agree. I think that’s the goal for all the starters. If they can go six and give up three or four runs, the Twins have an awfully good chance to win the game. Dobnak may not be asked to go that far, but that should be the goal for Berrios and Odorizzi. There is a lot of pressure on the offense, though. For the Twins to win this, they simply have to hit home runs and put big runs on the board. It’s hard to envision a series win any other way.
All right, prediction time. I’ll start. There are so many variables here, health being perhaps most important. Ultimately, I’ll say Twins in 5. I think these two teams are mirror images, but the Twins have a slight advantage in starting pitching and the bullpen arms to lock down late leads. It’s going to be very tight and very intense, but I believe the offense is special enough to make it happen and break the curse. What’s your call?
JZ: I said the same thing on SKOR North this week and I’m sticking to it. Twins in five. Not only do these Twins not care about what happened to past Twins teams against the Yankees, but Rocco Baldelli, Nelson Cruz and Marwin Gonzalez are very un-Minnesota like. In other words, they have a calmness that I buy and that means they don’t think about what can or will go wrong. That remains my job and I’m proud of it. But I know fake confidence when I see it and these guys aren’t showing fake confidence. It will be a high-scoring series that leaves the winner exhausted but I can’t wait.