We’re supposed to believe that the 2019 Minnesota Twins have no chance to beat the 2019 New York Yankees because a bunch of currently retired players failed to beat previous Yankee teams?
That’s a popular theme this week. It is flawed only in that it doesn’t make sense.
Want to pick the Yankees to beat the Twins in the ALDS? You can rely on logic. The Yankees won more games, won a tougher division, have home-field advantage and are used to playing under intense pressure, and the Twins may start one game with a former Utica Unicorn on the mound.
Want to pick the Twins to lose because of a history that has nothing to do with their current roster? That’s dubious.
Seven Twins expected to be on the Twins’ ALDS roster played in the team’s 8-4 loss in a one-game playoff at Yankee Stadium in 2017.
The three key position players who played in that game and are expected to be in the starting lineup Friday — Jorge Polanco, Eddie Rosario and Max Kepler — combined to go 3-for-10 with three walks.
The Twins didn’t lose that game because they were overmatched, intimidated or paranoid. They lost because their veteran pitcher, Ervin Santana, gave up three runs in the first inning to erase the Twins’ 3-0 lead.
The history that should inform this series occurred more recently, when the Yankees took two of three at Target Field in July.
The Twins won the opener 8-6. The Yankees won the second game 14-12 in 10 innings, then won the finale 10-7. The difference in the series was Aaron Hicks making a wild diving catch in left-center to rob Kepler of a game-winning, bases-loaded double in the bottom of the 10th of Game 2.
“We haven’t played the Yankees in their place since early in the year,’’ Twins catcher Mitch Garver said. “But going back in the month of September I can recall two road series that felt very much like playoff baseball — one at the Red Sox, the other one in Cleveland. We took two out of three in both.’’
Other reasons this team shouldn’t fear Yankee Stadium or its home team? The Twins:
• Can slug with the Yankees. The Twins hit 307 homers this year, one more than New York, and finished with a higher slugging percentage.
• Are facing a team with just as many injury problems.
• Finished the season with a lower ERA than the Yankees, and the Twins’ key relievers surged toward the end of the season, after a bullpen purge in late July.
• Built the best road record in baseball in 2019 — 55-26. No other team won more than 48 road games.
“Maybe we like to hit first,’’ Garver said.
“We like hotels,’’ Nelson Cruz said.
• Key members of this year’s Twins — manager Rocco Baldelli, Jake Odorizzi and second baseman Jonathan Schoop — played in the AL East and are accustomed to Yankee Stadium.
“I don’t find it intimidating at all,’’ Baldelli said. “I’ve been a part of many, many games in that ballpark, and many, many great efforts in that ballpark — and winning efforts.
“The fans and everyone who has followed the Twins for a long time and potentially watched every game that the Twins have played there may have thoughts about these types of games, but as far as these players and this clubhouse, I don’t think anyone cares about what has happened previously, and I think our guys are about as confident going into this series as you can be. I’m excited to play the Yankees.’’
There is one reason for paranoia: Yankee Stadium Effect. Home plate umpires often give the benefit of the doubt on key pitches to Yankee stars. Twins pitchers will have to pound the strike zone and trust their fielders, and the loss of center fielder Byron Buxton can’t be understated.
But if the Twins lose, it won’t be because of history, or intimidation, but because they’re facing a team that won 103 games.