Two of baseball’s surprise teams of 2017 will kick off the MLB playoffs on Tuesday night, with the Minnesota Twins battling the New York Yankees in the American League Wild Card at Yankee Stadium in New York (8 p.m. ET, ESPN, WatchESPN).
Granted, it’s never truly a surprise when the big market behemoth Yankees are contenders, but they were sellers at the trade deadline just last year, trading away closer Aroldis Chapman, fireman Andrew Miller, outfielder Carlos Beltran and starting pitcher Ivan Nova in a mini-rebuild of sorts. The rebound came quick for New York, and three of its top four players in 2017 by Wins Above Replacement were 25-year-old outfielder Aaron Judge, 23-year-old starter Luis Severino, and 24-year-old catcher Gary Sanchez.
Judge is one of the leading candidates for American League MVP, and will be a runaway winner of the AL Rookie of the Year award after hitting .284/.422/.627 with a major league rookie record 52 home runs. He led the AL in home runs, runs scored (128) and walks (127), and was second in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS (1.049) and RBI (114).
“You can talk about the home runs and the RBIs, but it’s the on-base and the baserunning and the defense,” manager Joe Girardi told Bryan Hoch of MLB.com on Sunday. “It’s the complete package is what we’ve got from him, and that’s what has been so impressive to me.”
Minnesota shocked everyone, making the playoffs just one year after losing 103 games, finishing in 2016 with the worst record in baseball. But 85 wins later here they are, back in the postseason for the first time since 2010.
The Twins have a young corps of their own, getting 71 home runs combined from 24-year-old third baseman Miguel Sano, 25-year-old outfielder Eddie Rosario, and 23-year-old defensive star center fielder Byron Buxton.
Sano, who hit .264/.352/.507 with 28 home runs in 114 games this season, is the big question mark heading into Tuesday’s game, after he missed 38 games with a stress reaction in his left shin. He was activated off the disabled list on Friday, and went 1-for-8 in three games over the season’s final weekend against the Tigers, including two starts at designated hitter.
“I don’t think he feels great,” manager Paul Molitor told Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press on Sunday. “I know he’s still having discomfort.”
Severino gets the start on Tuesday for the Yankees, after an All-Star campaign that saw him go 14-6 with a 2.98 ERA and 230 strikeouts, the latter ranking fourth in the American League. That included a 2.28 ERA after the All-Star break, allowing zero or one earned run in 10 of his last 14 starts.
Ervin Santana starts for the Twins. The veteran right-hander posted a 3.28 ERA in 33 starts this season, including allowing just five runs in his final four starts of the year.
Teams, game time, TV and streaming info
- Teams: Twins (85-77) at Yankees (91-71)
- Time: 8 p.m. ET
- First pitch: 8:09 p.m.
- Location: Yankee Stadium, The Bronx, New York
- TV: ESPN
- Streaming: WatchESPN
- Announcers: Dan Shulman, Aaron Boone, Jessica Mendoza, Buster Olney
AL Wild Card news & notes
The contract of Twins manager Paul Molitor expires at the end of 2017, but he told Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that his status won’t be a distraction:
“If circumstances were different and we weren’t playing Tuesday, I might have spent more time thinking about it, to be honest with you,” Molitor said. “Whenever we’re done, and hopefully it’s not for awhile, I’m sure that will be pushed to the forefront.”
The Yankees are healthy at just the right time, says Jake Devin at Pinstripe Alley:
The Yankees have managed to put together an incredibly clean bill of health at exactly the right time, as they try to make a deeper run into October than their last appearance in 2015. Their lack of injury issues means the team is firing on all cylinders just as they transition to the most important games of the year.
Should this bill of health hold into the postseason, the Yankees will be able to ensure that every inning and at-bat is handled by a competent major leaguer. At full strength, they run 11 or 12 deep in serviceable or better position players. They have five or six average or better starting pitchers, five relief aces, and one of the league’s best swingmen in Warren.
Minnesota catcher Jason Castro was on the Houston Astros team in 2015 that beat the Yankees in the Wild Card Game, also in New York. Castro talked with LaVelle Neal of the Star Tribune:
“The intensity was definitely there,” Castro said. “Kind of a do-or-die game. It is not something many people get a sense of, unless they have played in some sort of playoff. So it is unique. The urgency is a little bit different. Everything that happens in the game can make the difference.”
The majority of Twins players have never appeared in a postseason game, which is something they can’t get around. Joe Mauer has played in nine postseason games.