If I had it my way, this is how the Twins would stack up their postseason starting pitchers:
• Ervin Santana starts the wild-card game against the Yankees. This is pretty much a no-brainer, and it's how the Twins have had their rotation set up for weeks. If he's cruising in that game and the Twins have a significant lead, he stays in. But the Yankees have a way of grinding teams down and getting pitch counts up. The Twins should plan for Santana to only pitch four or five innings, at which point they hand the ball to Jose Berrios.
Unlike the Yankees, the Twins don't have a bunch of 100 mph relievers to blaze through the final three innings. Berrios has fantastic stuff, and as a 2-3 inning guy for this game, he could be devastating. The Twins need to go all-in on this game, and that means they can't pitch anyone they don't trust. If that means burning through the guys who have been their top two starters most of the year, so be it.
If it works and the Twins manage to win in that Yankee Stadium house of horrors, using Santana and Berrios doesn't leave the Twins in as bad of shape for the ALDS and beyond as you might think.
• Kyle Gibson pitches Game 1 of the ALDS against either Cleveland or Houston. This would have been inconceivable at various points this season, but Gibson has been the Twins' hottest pitcher over the past month, with a 7-0 record and 2.56 ERA in his past seven starts.
• Bartolo Colon gets Game 2 of the ALDS, with Adalberto Mejia ready at the first sign of trouble. Colon helped save the Twins' season when they needed stability in the rotation, but he has a 13.50 ERA in his past four outings. Even when he's been "on" this season, Colon has had a handful of games where he cruised through the early innings before running into trouble. Mejia, too, tends to be good for four or five innings. Between the two of them, the Twins have a chance.
Using this strategy, the Twins would be rolling the dice that they could split two games in Cleveland or Houston with what have been their No. 3, No. 4 and possibly No. 5 starters against Cleveland and Houston's top two starters.
But: The Indians already have the edge against any Twins pitcher when Corey Kluber starts, and they probably have an edge when No. 2 starter Carlos Carrasco pitches. Houston would have the same with Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel, assuming those are their first two pitchers. So why not hope you can pull off the unexpected — knock around one of those aces or get into a tight game that your bullpen wins or get a huge pitching performance from a lesser starter — and come back to Minnesota tied 1-1 with some real leverage?
• Regardless of where the series stood, the Twins would have Santana in Game 3 on full rest — either with a chance to take a commanding lead or at least cut the deficit to 2-1 with a more favorable pitching matchup.
• If you get to a Game 4, you have Berrios at Target Field as your starter. He has an 8-1 record and 2.45 ERA at home this season. He could be in position to either close out a series or send it to a Game 5.
• In Game 5, the Twins would be back to Gibson against an opposing team's ace. That's a lot to ask, but we're not talking sure things. We're talking best chances. This pitching plan gives the Twins the best chance to win both a one-game playoff and a five-game series, while also setting up Santana and Berrios to potentially pitch Games 1 and 2 of the ALCS on full rest.