If Tuesday’s AL wild card contest was going to devolve into a bullpen game, only club stood a chance. And devolve it did, with the New York Yankees topping the Minnesota Twins 8-4. The first inning would take an hour to complete. It was 3-3 by the end of it.
Our Brandon Warne nearly nailed it Tuesday night, saying:
a�?The Yankees have owned the Twins this seasona��including most notably in the Bronx, where they got a series sweep just over two weeks ago. However, it isn’t an impossibility that the blueprint for a Twins win exists, and in fact was found in that same dominant series for the Yankees.a�?
And it was this: stuffing the lineup with lefties in hitter-friendly Yankees Stadium. Warne continued:
a�?But we do know this: the Twins are a lefty-dominant lineup that’ll be in its element in Yankee Stadium, which has a home run park factor of 142 for lefty hitters.a�?
And there they were on full display Tuesday night. Yes, the right-handed Brian Dozier got things started with a solo shot, but it was the switch-hitting Jorge Polanco drawing a walk after Luis Severino retired Joe Mauera��for the only out of his evening, by the way. It was the left-handed Eddie Rosario that hit the two-run dong to put the Twins up 3-0 in the blink of an eye.
Then a switch-hitter and another leftya��Eduardo Escobar and Max Kepler, respectively, singled and doubled to close out Severino’s evening. The lefties had gotten to him. The job was half-done. They were, in fact, in their element. But they couldn’t capitalize afterwards.
And unfortunately for Minnesota, Ervin Santana didn’t have his best stuff.
Between both starters, command was in short supply. So when Santana or Severino decided they wanted to throw strikes, they got too much of the plate. The difference? New York has a bullpen.
The Twins were never going to keep up their offensive outburst. Not against the likes of Chad Green, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnlea��let alone Aroldis Chapman. Green, Robertson and Kahnle combined for 7.2 innings Tuesday nighta��surrendering just one run and striking out 10a��before Chapman struck out the side to close it out.
The Twins were always going to be chasing. But they needed Santana to last, and he couldn’t After being spotted three runs, Didi Gregorius immediately wiped the slate clean. The moment had passed. The chance was gone. Brett Gardner added on, and latera��when Minnesota needed some clean innings out of JosA� BerrA�osa��potential MVP Aaron Judge added two more.
It wasn’t a thumping, but the AL wild card ultimately played to New York’s strengths. Now yes, Cleveland will undoubtedly be tougher. And of course the Yankees won’t be able to bullpen-game their way through the postseason.
But on a night when it was win or go home, this was exactly what the doctor ordered.