During batting practice before Game 2 of the ALDS on Saturday, some Twins hitters lamented the poor at-bats they took in Game 1 and planned to turn the tables in Game 2.
But then Yankees righthander Masahiro Tanaka hypnotized them that night with split-fingered fastballs and sliders.
The Twins have scored six runs in two games. So what now? Do the Twins analyze tape or analyze their heads?
“I think you just have to go back and look at the game and see if there was anything different,” hitting coach James Rowson said. “I thought Tanaka threw a lot of strike-to-balls. The ball coming out of his hand was a strike and then ended up a little bit off the plate, a little bit out of the zone. That’s what he does with his off-speed. He didn’t leave you a whole lot of pitches to drive.”
Tanaka and lefthander James Paxton, the Game 1 starter, have provided the template for righthander Luis Severino to copy on Monday in Game 3. The Yankees are hiding fastballs from the Twins. Paxton threw a curveball 41.8% of the time in Game 1 after averaging 18.8% during the regular season. And Tanaka threw just 16 fastballs all night on Saturday.
When Severino was asked last week about facing the Twins, it was obvious he had not forgotten about what happened in the 2017 wild-card game against them, when he gave up home runs to Brian Dozier and Eddie Rosario and was pulled from the game after getting just one out.
“I can get revenge about that thing, what happened there,” Severino said to New York reporters then.
Severino has spent most of the season recovering from a rotator cuff strain and, more recently, a lat strain. He’s pitched in three games in September, giving up two earned runs over 12 innings. But he feels he will be on top of his game Monday, with the Yankees having a chance to eliminate the Twins from the playoffs.
“I think I am my best,” Severino said Sunday. “I had three outings before this, so that’s regular what I do in spring training, before I head into the season, so I think that’s good enough to be at my best.”
His average fastball is 96.1 miles per hour, which is down from 97.6 mph a year ago. He’s throwing it more often this season, 56.6% vs. 50.4 a year ago. He’s backed off his slider while mixing in more changeups.
However Severino approaches them, the Twins need to be ready.
“We have a plan,” Twins designated hitter Nelson Cruz said. “Hopefully the plan works this time.”
The Twins held an optional workout Sunday, but at least 23 players showed up. Some had to get work in or get treatment for injuries. Others had nothing else to do, so they headed for the park.
It sort of mocks manager Rocco Baldelli’s approach to making sure his players are as well-rested as possible and getting them a mental break in addition to getting them off their feet.
“We called it an extremely optional workout,” Baldelli said. “I would — we don’t really tell anyone what to do here. We suggest things, but we told our guys, one, get some rest, take the day. Any of our guys that aren’t here, that’s just fine by us; we probably encourage it ahead of anything else.”
A win for the Twins on Monday will be big in more ways than one.
Per the collective bargaining agreement, 60% of the gate receipts from the first three games of a five-game series goes into the players’ pool for their postseason bonuses. If the Twins win Monday and force a Game 4, they will see a sizable jump in gate receipt revenue, minus the salaries paid to the umpiring crew.
If the Twins win on Monday and Tuesday, then the Yankees will see their gate receipt revenue spike for hosting Game 5.
Since the League Championship Series and World Series are seven-game series, the players’ pool is funded with 60% from gate receipts through the first four games.
In case you were wondering, a full share for the World Series champion Boston Red Sox last year was $416,837.72.
Yes, that was Twins utility player Ehire Adrianza on a motorized scooter Sunday in downtown Minneapolis.
Adrianza owns his own scooter but left it in the clubhouse when the team traveled to New York for the first two games of the ALDS. So when he left his hotel for Target Field on Sunday, he grabbed a scooter off the street and rode it into the players’ parking lot.