MLB Postseason Preview: American League Wild Card game — Twins at Yankees

It’s October, and that means the Major League Baseball postseason is here. This is the third year of the expanded playoffs with Wild Card games in the American League and National League. For the second time in those three years, the AL Wild Card game is being played at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees lost the game to the Astros in 2015, but they seem to have an easier matchup this time, hosting the Twins. The Yankees are coming off a 91-71 season while the Twins finished the regular season 85-77, making the playoffs just a season after losing a MLB-worst 103 games in 2016.

The visitors are putting veteran SP Ervin Santana (16-8, 3.28 ERA) on the mound to oppose Yankees SP Luis Severino (14-6, 2.98 ERA).

The Yankees having home-field advantage in the game could come into play because even though the Twins finished the 2017 season a respectable 44-37 on the road, the Yankees were an impressive 51-29 in the Bronx during the regular season.

Santana has the clear experience advantage over Severino, as he is making his third career postseason start and ninth appearance overall, while Severino is playing in his first career postseason game, at any level of professional baseball. They both pitched well during the season, with Santana winning two more games and Severino recording a slightly lower ERA. Santana had a rough couple of starts in early September, giving up four earned runs in back-to-back outings, but he hasn’t given up more than three earned runs in four starts since then, and he went all of August without allowing more than three earned runs. Severino only had two games since the beginning of July in which he gave up more than three earned runs — a six-run outing on July 2 and an eight-run game on August 12. Severino has also been racking up the strikeouts in the second half of the season, totaling 123 since July 1, just 44 fewer than Santana’s total for the season. Advantage: Yankees

The Yankees have one of the best bullpens in the majors, and it only got better at the non-waiver trade deadline, with the additions of RPs David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle to a bullpen that already had RPs Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman. Overall, the Yankees had the third-best bullpen ERA in the majors at 3.35 but the Twins were down at 23rd in the rankings, with a 4.42 ERA from their relievers.The Twins had more saves than the Yankees — 41 to 36 — but that could be a result of how the games went. If given a choice, I’d still rather have the Yankees’ bullpen.
Advantage: Yankees

Looking at the offense, both teams were in the top 10 in batting average, with the Yankees having a slight advantage, but the Yankees have a clear advantage in the power department, having led the majors with 240 home runs — thanks in large part to 52 off the bat of OF Aaron Judge — which was 36 more than the Twins hit, with their team high being 34 from 2B Brian Dozier. Yankees C Gary Sanchez was second on the team with 33 home runs, just one fewer than the Twins’ home-run leader. With so many more home runs for the Yankees, it’s not surprising that they also had a higher OPS than the Twins, with the Yankees ranking third in the majors in that category and the Twins being ninth. The biggest hole in the Yankees’ lineup is DH Matt Holliday, who hit just .230 in 104 games this season, with 18 home runs. The biggest offensive liability for the Twins is C Jason Castro, but that’s the position where most teams have their worst offensive production.
Advantage: Yankees

The Twins are one of the best defensive teams in the league, with their 78 errors being tied for the fourth fewest in the majors. The Yankees, on the other hand, made 95 errors, which was two more than the league average.
Advantage: Twins

The Yankees have the advantage in all major aspects of the game other than defense. As long as Severino can give the Yankees six innings and get a lead to the bullpen, I think the Yankees will win the game. If the Twins are going to have a chance to win, they’ll need big production out of the likes of Dozier, 3B Miguel Sano and OF Byron Buxton.

Whoever wins advances to the American League Division Series to play the AL Central champion Indians. The other ALDS is already set, with the AL West champion Astros holding home-field advantage in the series with the Red Sox, who won the AL East for the second year in a row. Both American League series begin on Thursday.

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