You want to treat it like every other road trip, but it’s impossible to do. It’s New York. It’s Yankee Stadium, the big stage.
And this time the postseason is at stake.
So Twins manager Paul Molitor said his team is just going to have immerse itself in the emotionally charged atmosphere he anticipates this week in the Bronx as the current holders of the two American League wild-card spots clash for three games in a series that begins Monday.
“There is going to be a little bit of a challenge, especially as we get the game underway,” Molitor said. “I don’t know if it is going to have an October feel, but it is going to have a different feel than some of the other places we have been, no doubt about that.
“Something about the pinstripes that carries a different feel as an opponent, no matter when you play there.”
Will the power of the pinstripes compel the Twins to behave differently? Or will they stay true to what has helped them become one of baseball’s surprising teams?
On Sunday, the Twins fell behind 5-0 before charging by Toronto 13-7 behind two home runs from Eddie Rosario and Joe Mauer’s fourth career grand slam — his first in Minnesota. It allowed them to avoid losing three of four games to the Blue Jays, and slump avoidance has been their best trait this season. They have not lost more than four consecutive games all year, either getting strong pitching performances or an offensive outburst to stop slides.
“We feel good. We won a very important game today,” infielder Eduardo Escobar said. “We are going out [to New York] inspired. We know we are playing a team that is very good, that has been pretty good all year. We are going to go out there and do our thing.
“An example of that was today. We were down five runs, and we flipped the game right over and won. That speaks a lot about who we are as a team.”
With the Angels losing to Texas on Sunday, the Twins are two games in front of Los Angeles for the second wild-card spot. The Yankees have the wild-card lead, four games ahead of the Twins with 13 to play. Despite their loss to Baltimore on Sunday, the Yankees are 11-5 over their past 16 games and only three games back of Boston in the AL East, with a chance to win the division title.
“Do you wish you were more in control of your destiny? Absolutely,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi told New York writers. “But we played [Boston] 19 times. Now we have to rely on other people, and we have to play really well.”
For now, they have to turn attention to the Twins, who have hit a major league-high 74 home runs since Aug. 8 — more than the New York team with sluggers Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. Twins righthander Ervin Santana will open the series on Monday.
But this also is a Twins club that is 11-32 at Yankee Stadium since 2001, and 1-5 under Molitor. Whether it’s the pinstripes, the accents or the ghosts of Yankees past haunting them, the Twins have not fared well in New York.
Molitor plans on taking his team’s pulse during batting practice Monday to make sure the Twins are ready to show who they are as they begin their biggest series of the season.
“I think it will be a pretty highly charged group when they take the field,” Molitor said. “It should be fun.”