MLB Postseason Preview: Twins vs. Yankees

Minnesota Twins (87-76) at

New York Yankees (103-59)

(RIDICULOUSLY BIASED) OVERVIEW

YankeesTwinsThe Yankees are the best team in the AL, but they’re taking on the Twins, who just completed one of the most incredible comebacks to win a division (down three with four to play). Fortunately for them, that makes them hot. Unfortunately for them, that makes them spent. I can definitely foresee an’03 Yankees World Series type situation, where the Twins feel as if they’ve already won their crown just by getting this far. Plus, the division race has left their rotation a little out of whack, forcing them to use rookie pitcher Brian Duensing in Game 1.

THE LINEUPS

As I insisted repeatedly earlier this week, the Yankees have the best lineup in baseball. Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez are the best three-four hitters in the league, but the lineup is also deep with seven guys who have over 20 home runs. A lot of that, of course, is due to the new Yankee Stadium, but a lot of it is also great production from guys like Nick Swisher, Hideki Matsui and Robinson Cano.

The Twins, on the other hand, have Joe Mauer, the best hitter in the league in 2009, but not much beyond that. Justin Morneau is hurt. Their second best hitter now is Jason Kubel who, though he did have an impressive season in ’09, is not going to strike fear into a lot of pitchers’ hearts. And the fact the Nick Punto, Matt Tolbert and Jose Morales are all getting significant numbers of at-bats is not all that intimidating.

THE ROTATIONS

The Yankees have a lot of questions around their rotation heading into the post-season. CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte both finished the year with disappointing starts (and Sabathia still has that “Can he do it in the post-season?” question hanging over his head after bad performances in 2007 and 2008), and A.J. Burnett had been shaky since early August before apparently settling down in his last four starts. Let’s not even discuss Joba Chamberlain, who was so unreliable that the Yankees chose the longer division series in order to avoid using a fourth starter.

Thanks to this, the Twins will actually be able to use their three best starters after Duensing goes in Game 1, although not in the order they would probably like: Scott Baker, their most consistent pitcher all year who they’d probably like to guarantee at least one start, won’t go until a possible Game 4. Nick Blackburn will be available for Game 2 on Friday, and ex-Yankee Carl Pavano (vengeance game!) can go on Sunday in Game 3. None of these names worry Yankees fans the way seeing Justin Verlander twice would have, but none of them are pushovers, either. If each of them can give the Twins six or so good innings, they can hand the ball off to a great bullpen.

LINGERING QUESTIONS

TIM: Jason Kubel had 27 home runs this year. And you call this a regulation league?

JOHN: Yeah, that shocked me too. I was all ready to call him one of the weakest hitting DHs in recent memory. But I guess he’s blossomed.

TIM: Don’t Scott Baker and Nick Blackburn sound like character names from The OC or any show on the CW?

JOHN: Probably Gossip Girl. I can definitely see a Nick Blackburn trying to steal Blair Waldorf away from Chuck, or Scott Baker becoming Dan’s rival for Serena. The bigger question: Is anyone who’s reading a MLB preview post going to get those references?

TIM: The Yanks beat the Twins all seven times this season. How’d the regular-season sweep work out for you last time in the Division Series?

JOHN: Would have been great if not for those damn bugs.

TIM: Doesn’t the Metrodome and the fact that the Twins seem incapable of losing an elimination game there scare you?

JOHN: Not really.

TIM: I watched that game against the Tigers; how exactly did the Twins finish fourth in the league in runs?

JOHN: I know I should say “small ball” here, but it’s really Joe Mauer. You’ve got to appreciate Joe Mauer. People talk about pitching around Pujols in the NL, but even when Morneau is healthy, there’s a huge drop-off from the Twins best hitter to their second best.

TIM: What’s a Yankee fan’s attitude toward the Division Series these days? You more or less dominated it for a while, and now you’ve lost three straight—the last two in fairly surprising fashion. How disappointing would it be to lose this one?

JOHN: I’m terrified of the Division Series at this point. I desperately want Bud Selig to expand it to seven games; losing in the division series hurts so much more because it’s so quick and anticlimactic.

TIM: How much more disappointing would it be to lose this one in three, with Carl Pavano shutting you out in the clincher?

JOHN: I’m mainly just upset that if Yankees sweep, they’ll have to exact revenge on Pavano for the $40 million he essentially stole from the team on the road.

TIM: Your prediction?

JOHN: You serious? Yankees in a sweep.

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