First look * SCOUTING THE YANKEES
What: American League Division Series, Twins vs. New York Yankees.
Schedule: Friday and Saturday in New York. Monday, Oct. 7, and Tuesday, Oct. 8 (if necessary), at Target Field. Thursday, Oct. 10 (if necessary), in New York.
Overview: This one could be Bombageddon. The teams are spending the final weekend dueling for the major league home run record. That suggests this series will produce a lot of hard contact, plenty of runs — and really long games.
Good and bad: More than a few people think the Twins are better off playing the Yankees — and trying to outslug them — than facing Houston and its rotation of Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke. But … the Twins have lost 10 straight playoff games to the Yankees, 13 of 15 overall, and have lost five consecutive postseason series to New York.
Injury bug: The Yankees had a record 30 players land on the injured list at some point this season. Outfielders Michael Tauchman and Aaron Hicks are out for the season.
Bronx bombin’: Without injuries, the Yankees might have hit 400 home runs. Giancarlo Stanton, who had 59 home runs in 2017 for Miami, is just off the injured list and has played in only 15 games. Aaron Judge (26 homers) has played only 100 games. Catcher Gary Sanchez has 34 home runs in 105 games and is just returning from a groin injury. Shortstop Didi Gregorius missed most of the first half of the season and has 16 homers in 80 games. Veteran DH Edwin Encarnacion was picked up from Seattle and has 13 homers in 44 games but is hampered by a left oblique strain. Infielder Gleyber Torres has a team-leading 36 home runs, Brett Gardner has 28, and Jake Voit and Gio Urshela both have 21. And let’s not forget infielder D.J. LeMahieu, signed as almost an afterthought as a free agent. He’s hitting .331 with 26 home runs and 102 RBI.
Projected batting order: LeMahieu 1B; Judge RF; Torres 2B; Gregorius SS; Sanchez C; Stanton LF; Voit or Encarnacion DH; Gardner CF; Urshela 3B.
Projected starting rotation: Lefthander James Paxton (15-6) injured a knee against the Twins early in the season and struggled for a while when he returned, but won 10 in a row and emerged as the Yankees’ No. 1 starter. He has 186 strikeouts in 151 innings. Luis Severino is the likely No. 2 starter after coming off the injured list. Masahiro Tanaka would be No. 3. Severino (shoulder inflammation, lat pull) has pitched in only two games all season. Domingo German was 18-4 when he went on the suspended list after allegations of domestic assault; he won’t be in the postseason.
Bullpen: The Yankees are 90-1 when leading after eight innings. Adam Ottavino has a 1.79 ERA in 72 games. Aroldis Chapman has 84 strikeouts in 56 innings and 37 saves in 42 chances. Tommy Kahnle has 88 strikeouts in 60 innings.
Intangibles: How the Twins, who haven’t won a playoff series since 2002, handle playing the first two games at Yankee Stadium will be the most important issue in this series.
LA VELLE E. NEAL III