The Twins return home Friday for what should be a festive final three games of the season at Target Field against the Tigers. Minnesota clinched a postseason spot during its 10-game road trip and is slated to be on the road Tuesday for the AL wild card game. The Twins are locked into their postseason spot, so expect this weekend to be a victory lap but also a tuneup as the Twins attempt to be at full force Tuesday.
With that in mind, here are nine things to know about the Twins in the playoffs:
1) They almost certainly will face the Yankees on Tuesday in the wild card game, but New York still has a slim shot to win the AL East. Boston leads the Yankees by three games with three to play. If the Yankees sweep the Blue Jays (who have nothing to play for) and the Red Sox are swept by the playoff-bound Astros (who still have something to play for), the teams will meet in a one-game playoff Monday at Yankee Stadium. If the Yankees come all the way back, the Twins would face Boston on Tuesday. Still, FanGraphs gives the Red Sox a 98.9 percent chance of winning the division, leaving the Yankees as the first wild card. If the Twins face the Yankees, they’ll have plenty of history — recent and distant — with which to contend. New York knocked the Twins out of the playoffs in 2003, 2004, 2009 and 2010, going 12-2 in the process. And the Yankees just swept the Twins at Yankee Stadium last week.
2) If the Twins win on the road in the wild card game, they will face either Cleveland or Houston in the division series. Games 1 and 2 would be on the road next Thursday and Friday, Games 3 and 4 would be at Target Field on Sunday and Monday and Game 5 if necessary would be on the road Wednesday. Cleveland is ahead of Houston by one game and holds the tiebreaker. The Twins would face whichever of the teams finishes with the best record, with Cleveland most likely. Minnesota went 1-5 against Houston and 7-12 against Cleveland this season.
3) The Twins are still trying to determine what 25-man roster they will use for the wild card game Tuesday. Rosters need to be submitted by 9 a.m. the day of the game. They can change their roster between the wild card game and the ALDS, giving them some intriguing options.
4) The most intriguing question: Will Miguel Sano be available Tuesday? The Twins are at least considering adding their slugger, out since mid-August, if he remains encouraged by his recovery from a shin injury.
5) One thing not in question: Ervin Santana, the Twins’ most reliable pitcher for the duration of this season, is scheduled to start Tuesday’s one-game wild card playoff. Kyle Gibson or Jose Berrios could be used in relief in that game as well.
6) While the Twins have nothing to play for in terms of positioning this weekend, there is a bit of numerology at play. If they win two of three against Detroit, they will finish with an 85-77 record — the same mark they had in 1987 when they shocked baseball by winning their first World Series.
7) Regardless of what happens in the postseason, this year has already been an amazing turnaround from 59-103 last season. The Twins are the first team in MLB history to make the postseason after losing 100 games the previous season.
8) This is the Twins’ first postseason appearance since 2010, when they were swept by the Yankees. The only Twins player who appeared in that playoff series who is still on the roster is Joe Mauer.
9) A one-game playoff on the road is daunting, but FanGraphs gives the Twins a 41.1 percent chance of advancing to the ALDS, a 10.5 percent chance of getting to the ALCS, a 2.9 percent chance of reaching the World Series and a 1 percent chance to win it all. So you’re telling me there’s a chance?