Minnesota Twins: With strong wild-card implications, Twins start important series against the New York Yankees

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JUNE 16: Byron Buxton
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JUNE 16: Byron Buxton /

The Minnesota Twins look to take further control of their wild-card position as they open a series with the New York Yankees Monday night.

Monday night the Minnesota Twins begin an important series with major playoff implications against the New York Yankees. The Twins are certainly looking to hold on to their position as the second wild-card team, but could even make a dent in the Yankees 4-game lead as the top wild-card team.

At one point in the season, the Yankees looked like a team that could just be handed championship trophies at the pace they were winning games and how they were winning those games. Since August 1, they have cooled off considerably playing just above .500 ball with a record of 25-20. They still hold an overall record of 82-67, but a once un-catchable team has become catchable quickly.

In previous seasons, this would be a series that Twins fans could just go ahead and mark L’s next to. This isn’t the Yankees that Twins fans are used to. They are still very good, but the Twins are also good enough to win games against them as they proved to fans, and maybe themselves, earlier this season when they won the home series 2-1. Let’s look at how this series at Yankee Stadium shapes up.

Probable Pitching Matchups

Looking at the pitching matchups, the Twins should be able to match up well with this trio of Yankee starters. Garcia, since being flipped to the Yankees, has struggled. He hasn’t been able to make it to the 6th inning yet in a Yankees uniform. This also isn’t the Sabathia of old and the Twins should be very capable of connecting with his pitches. Tanaka is a true wild card as far as what we should expect. He can pitch like a staff ace one game but hand away games in the next.

All in all, the Twins shouldn’t be afraid of the Yankees starting pitching. The pitching found in the Yankees bullpen may demand a little more respect as the team has done a lot to improve the arms making up that relief corp since the last time these two teams met. While they haven’t necessarily proven to be unbeatable, it might be wise for the Twins to take care of business by scoring runs early before having to face the likes of Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, and David Robertson.

One of the prominent storylines of the 2017 Yankees has been their great hitting performances. Specifically, how two young players in Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez have been power threats seemingly every time they come to the plate. Thankfully Judge has cooled off in the second half. Since the beginning of August, Judge has slashed .204/.377/.444 and hit 9 HR. Considerably less potent than his .303/.429/.639 with 34 HR for the season through July.

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Sanchez, on the other hand, has continued to be a force as the Yankees catcher. In that same time frame as Judge, he has slashed .306/.429/.639 while sending 15 homers over the fence. Even with Judge in a slump, the Twins will still need to be careful when facing this Yankees’ lineup which includes other potent bats such as Didi Gregorius who has provided 24 home runs as a shortstop.

The Yankees must also be a little nervous themselves, as they will have to face a Twins lineup that even without Miguel Sano continues to find ways to get runs across the plate. Most recently evident in Sunday’s 13-7 win over the Toronto Blue Jays. Byron Buxton continues to improve with his bat and is striking fear into opposing pitching staffs as he has slashed .321/.364/.617 since August 1 with a .981 OPS and 11 home runs.

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Buxton’s performance is one of many great performances that have been seen up and down the Twins’ lineup since the trade deadline. Leading the Twins to a 28-18 record over that time frame. This has allowed the Twins to gain some ground on a Yankees’ team that isn’t striking the same fear into opponents as they once were. The Yankees are still to be respected, but the Minnesota Twins are lined up well with their starting rotation and the way this lineup is locked in to win this series and further command their position as a wild-card team.