Minnesota Twins vs New York Yankees Weekend Series Preview

Sep 5, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Darth Vader holds ups a baseball before the game between the Texas Rangers and the Seattle Mariners at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 5, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Darth Vader holds ups a baseball before the game between the Texas Rangers and the Seattle Mariners at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

Minnesota Twins Host Evil Empire in 4 Game Weekend Series

The Minnesota Twins play host to their nemesis, the New York Yankees, for four games this weekend. Even if they sweep all four in convincing fashion, it cannot exorcise the demons of being eliminated 3 of their last 4 post-seasons by the Yankees.

Most most to the missed double (right in front of baseline umpire Phil Cuzzi) by Joe Mauer in the 2009 ALDS as the reason MLB finally relented to instant replay. While most of the players who played a role in those losses are gone from New York (Jeter, Rivera, Posano, Williams), the mystique will remain until the Twins can defeat the Yankees in October.

One of the names that remains for New York is C.C. Sabathia. And one from the Twins, Joe Mauer. Not so coincidentally, Sabathia is one of the hardest pitchers for Mauer to hit against. His .163 career batting average is his second-worst against pitchers he’s faced at least 20 times (C.J. Wilson – .129) and Joe has struck out more against C.C. (17 times) than any other pitcher. In fact, he strikes out 35% of the time he steps in against Sabathia.

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By last year, Sabathia’s run looked nearly over in New York. His struggles on the mound paled to his personal struggles that found him in rehab at season’s end. His future as a contributing starter for New York was seriously in doubt.

He had just one guaranteed year left on his massive-at-the-time contract. He entered this Spring Training fighting for the #5 spot in the rotation. His fastball that used to hit 97-98? He’s lucky to touch 90 nowadays.

But, 10 weeks into 2016, and C.C. just might be the ace of the staff for New York. His competition for the #5 spot, Luis Severino, is in AAA. Now, Sabathia leads New York with a 2.28 ERA. If he had enough qualifying starts, he would rank third in the AL. Sabathia will go in game one tonight against the Twins.

Thursday Night Game

C.C. Sabathia (4-4, 2.38 ERA) vs Kyle Gibson (0-4, 6.49 ERA)

7:10 CDT Target Field

TV: Fox Sports North

Friday Night Game

Masahiro Tanaka (3-2, 3.08 ERA) vs Pat Dean (1-2, 4.17 ERA)

7:10 CDT Target Field

TV: Fox Sports North

Saturday Afternoon Game

Michael Pineda (3-7, 5.88 ERA) vs Ricky Nolasco (3-4, 5.12 ERA)

1:10 CDT Target Field

TV: MLB Network (Out of market) & FSN

Sunday Afternoon Game

Nathan Eovaldi (6-3, 4.90 ERA) vs Ervin Santana (1-7, 5.10 ERA)

1:10 CDT Target Field

TV: Fox Sports North

New York: While Sabathia may be having a renaissance, the other hold-over from their days battling the Twins in the post-season, Alex Rodriguez, is struggling to reach the tape. Last year, after his suspension, A-Rod was the toast of the town as the New York media tried to get Rodriguez into the mid-summer classic.

His 33 homers a 88 RBI were a revelation for someone who took so much time off from baseball, and came back at 39 years old. 40 hit A-Rod like a ton of bricks. This season, battling Father Time and injury, he’s hitting just .209, and just 1 for his last 12 coming into tonight’s ballgame.

As a team, questions abound. While never a favorite in the off-season, the Yankees (like the Twins) were looking to push for a Wild Card spot. Now, on June 16th, they sit in last place in the AL East, losers of their last four, and 8 of their last 12 road games.

Pitching: The Yankees haven’t won since C.C. last pitched, which at that point had them over the .500 mark for the first time since April 13th. The Yankees have 31 quality starts (Twins last with 23) and with the return of Aroldis Chapman, have both the 8th and 9th innings covered as Andrew Miller (1.30 ERA, 7 Saves, 8 Holds) is one of the best setup men not on the Kansas City Royals.

Throw in Dellin Betances (16 Holds, 61 K’s in 31.2 IP) as another shutdown reliever, and it’s not the end of the bullpen’s fault either. The starters are just getting into the 6th inning, averaging 5.8 innings per start. If they can get to the 7th with a lead, the Yankees have a better than average shot at winning.

An early exit, either due to control issues that raise the starters’ pitch counts, or just falling behind by too many runs causing the exit, the Yankees do not have the middle relief in their bullpen, nor the firepower in their lineup to comeback.

Player to Watch: C.C. Sabathia, of course. He’s been on a tear of late, pitching 14 straight scoreless innings coming into tonight’s game. He’s a lifetime 17-9 against the Twins, pitching for both Cleveland and New York the majority of his 36 starts. After signing with New York in the 2008 off-season, Sabathia is 5-1, 3.47 ERA against Minnesota.

Hitting: The Yankees cannot keep a first baseman healthy on their roster. Long-time All-Star and Gold Glover, Mark Teixeira, has been battling knee injuries since 2013, and is currently on a rehab assignment. He looks to return by the end of June.

One-time Twin, Chris Parmelee, had two homers in his debut, and then strained his hamstring 2 days later, landing himself on the DL. Greg Bird, who was a hero against the Twins last year, is out for the year with a shoulder injury. Dustin Ackley, whom New York traded for last year is also out for the season with shoulder problems.

Enter Edina native, Ike Davis, son of former Twin closer, Ron Davis. Ike was a rising star just a few seasons ago with the other New York ballclub, the Mets, hitting 32 home runs as recently as 2012. But his propensity to strike out became less tolerable as the average and home run totals fell.

He became a journeyman before age 30, and was on the Texas Rangers minor league roster until he exercised an opt out option to sign with the Yankees this week.

Player to Watch: Carlos Beltran. The Yankees are in a virtual tie with the Minnesota Twins in batting average, with 14 less extra base hits. Beltran is the only Yankee with 10 or more home runs and/or 30 RBI (16/44). He’s second to Jacob Ellsbury in batting average (.284 to .277).

He’s a career slash (.281 AVG / .360 OBP / .859 OPS) against the Twins, though most of those are against pitchers no longer with the team. Only Ricky Nolasco has faced him more than 10 times. Beltran sat out yesterday’s game with a sore knee, but is expected to play against the Twins.

Twins: After a promising start to the Angels series, the Minnesota Twins fell flat in games 2 and 3, losing the final two games by a combined score of 15-6. Manager Paul Molitor was discouraged by his pitchers’ inability to keep the Angels off the scoreboard Tuesday after half-innings that the Twins had just scored in.

Wednesday wasn’t close after two miscues in the Twins’ outfield led to 5 runs in the 5th, and another 3 runs in the 6th inning. Max Kepler‘s over-run of a pop fly will make every week’s end “Worst of the Week” lowlights, but Robbie Grossman‘s misplay led to 3 “earned” runs for Taylor Rogers to turn last night’s game into a literal laugher.

After poor, short starts by Twins’ starters again, Twins will need a starter to step up to give their bullpen a much-needed rest. Pat Dean is the only Twin in the last 10 games to even pitch into the 7th inning, during Sunday’s no-decision in a 7-4 Twins win.

Notes: Joe Mauer went 1-4 last night, extending his streak to 27 games that he has reached base, currently tops in the majors. Eddie Rosario has had 10 multi-hit games in his last 17 games played in for AAA Rochester, hitting .400 with an 1.097 OPS during that stretch. If the Twins suffer an injury to an outfielder, look for Rosario to get promoted.

Next: Twins Roughed Up By Angels

Ten players from the Ft. Myers Miracle were named to the Class A Florida State League All-Star Game to be played this Saturday in Ft. Myers at the CenturyLink Sports Complex. Two players, Kohl Stewart and Raul Fernandez, will not attend, as they were recently promoted to Class AA Chattanooga. The record number includes Nick Gordon, Tyler Jay, Stephen Gonsalves, Felix Jorge, Trey Vavra, Edgar Corcino, Yorman Landa, and Todd Van Steensel.

UPDATE: Twins closer Glen Perkins has been ruled out for the rest of the season. Chances are that he will have season-ending labrum surgery in near future.