You can go back and see how close the Twins came to beating the Yankees last season despite spotting them the one-game advantage of their bleary-eyed showing in Game 1. Umpire Phil Cuzzi's blown call in Game 2 and Nick Punto's baserunning blunder in Game 3 didn't clinch those games for the Yankees, but they certainly helped.

And now, having said that, it's time to put away those excuses for good.

The Twins stepped in a hole in Game 1, couldn't hit their way out of the hole in Game 2 and made that hole their final resting place in Game 3.

The Twins got swept by the Yankees in 2009... and lost in four to them in 2003 and '04... and got swept by Oakland in '06 despite having home-field advantage. That should make longtime members of the organization fired up, and it should help newcomers to understand why there was so much parsing of the difference between potential opponents.

I tried not to think much about it. If you have to ponder potential opponents, you shouldn't be in the postseason.

Take a step back and it's been a pretty good run so far. The Twins took control of the AL Central despite losing Joe Nathan for the full season and Justin Morneau for half. Guys stepped up -- Delmon Young on offense, Danny Valencia to solve the third-base conundrum and Brian Duensing to provide rotation depth -- to allow the Twins to take a victory lap in the division race.

The lack of intensity from position players these last 10 games was an understandable reflex. When getting healthy is the manager's main goal, the trickle-down message is "let's just get through this and get to the games that really count."

I'm not sure how else the Twins should have played it.

Most troublesome is the starting pitching. I hope that the late-season outings were the post-clinching equivalent of the dead-arm phase at the end of spring training. But you also have to wonder about Francisco Liriano's tendency to struggle early and Carl Pavano being more off than on in his final eight starts, a stretch that dates back to when the Twins were holding off one final White Sox charge.

The Yankees also have issues, especially with their starting rotation. You can go deeper on the issues and the comparisons in so many places on the web that I'm disinclined to provide the 1,001st version.

The short version. If the Twins are who we think they are, it shouldn't be a shock if they win the series.


Gary Eichten and I will be doing a playoff preview on Minnesota Public Radio's Midday show at 11 a.m. Wednesday. It's at 91.1 FM and on the web.

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