Phil Miller covered three seasons of Twins baseball, but that was at a different ballpark for a different newspaper. Now Miller returns to the baseball beat after joining the Star Tribune as the Gopher football writer in 2010, and he won't miss the dingy dome for a minute. In addition to the Twins and Gophers, Miller covered the Utah Jazz and the NBA for six years at The Salt Lake Tribune.

Is Yankees vs. Rays an ALCS preview? The Twins and Rangers hope not

Posted by: Phil Miller under MLB Updated: September 20, 2010 - 12:19 PM

A Yankees/Rays ALCS must feel inevitable for those two fan bases, and quite frankly, for anyone with an objective view of the AL playoff picture.

In Tampa Bay's only other season like this, two years ago, the Rays held off Boston to win the AL East. Then -- after the Rays bounced the White Sox in four games and the Red Sox swept the Angels -- Tampa Bay edged Boston in a seven-game ALCS thriller, with Matt Garza earning MVP honors.

Now, the Yankees (90-59) and Rays (89-59) are battling atop the AL East, with both heading to the playoffs, and New York holds a half-game lead heading into a four-game series that starts tonight at Yankee Stadium. When these teams met last week, they played three one-run games with two decided on extra-inning homers (by Reid Brignac and Jorge Posada.) As the St. Petersburg Times noted, the teams were either one run apart or tied after 26 of the 30 innings.

The Twins (89-60) and Rangers (83-65) will have something to say about who advances to the ALCS, of course, but they'll both be fighting their own histories of postseason disappointment. The Twins are 1-5 in playoff series since winning the 1991 World Series. The Rangers are 0-for-3 in their playoff history and haven't been to the postseason since 1999.

In Minnesota and Texas, fans hope this is the year the story changes. The Twins have a chance to steal home-field advantage for the first two rounds, but even if that happens, they won't look any more formidable to AL East followers. The Twins are 2-4 against the Yankees this year and 3-5 against the Rays.

Also, consider this breakdown of how the four likely AL playoff teams have fared against each division:

Team.........vs. East....vs. Central......vs. West..........vs. NL

Yankees...33-26..............23-13...................33-13.............11-7

Rays......... 39-26...............24-11...................19-11.............7-11

Twins........14-18...............43-20..................24-12............8-10

Rangers...19-25...............25-18....................25-18............14-4

All four teams have fattened up against their own division, but nobody more than the Twins. And like the Rangers, the Twins have a losing record against the AL East. As La Velle notes today, (in a story describing Joe Mauer's latest injury), getting healthy is more important than getting home-field advantage.

Aaron Gleeman studies the Yankees and Rays today in a post titled, "Pick your poison."

Tonight, the Twins open a three-game set with Cleveland. Check back here later for the starting lineups, along with injury updates on Mauer, Denard Span and Jason Kubel.

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