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ALDS Preview: Yankees vs. Twins

Here we go again. October baseball. Yankees vs Twins.

Is this the year Minnesota overtakes the achillies heel that has been the New York Yankees? It seems like every time the Twins make the playoffs, the Yankees are there to put them back in their place. With a new stadium in Target Field, is this the year the Twins start a new era?

This time, the Twins will have home field advantage after winning the American League Central. The Yankees enter this years playoff as the AL Wild Card team, finishing one game behind the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East.

Target Field

Minnesota's Target Field

New York finished the regular season with a 95-67 record while Minnesota was 94-68. The Twins hold the American League’s best home record this season going 53-28 at Target Field.

While the Twins finished with just one less win than the Yankees, you have to consider the divisions the two teams play in. The Yankees had to play 72 games against the likes of Tampa Bay, Boston, Toronto, and Baltimore. The Twins meanwhile, were able to feast on AL Central opponents Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, and Kansas City. Minnesota was 47-25 against the central  and just 15-21 against the AL East this year.

This years Twins team, led by manager Ron Gardenhire, has some power, speed, and good pitching. They also have a fan base that gets behind the club and is a team that loves playing in their new stadium.

Both the Twins and Yankees have struggled down the stretch toward the playoffs. Minnesota basically shut down the ship once it appeared obvious they would make the playoffs and won just two of their final ten games. The Yankees won just three of their final ten. It is tough to just all of a sudden turn the swith back on and play good baseball. Whichever team can do that faster may come out on top of this series.

New York has a clear advantage offensively. The Yankees have scored 859 runs this year, the most in all of baseball. The Twins scored 781. The Yankees have more power up and down the lineup, from Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez to Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher.

Minnesota is based on a balanced offense. The loss of first baseman Justin Morneau hurt the Twins in the power department but Jim Thome and Delmon Young, and Justin Kubel can provide some pop. Joe Mauer is the games best catcher and one of the best hitters. He hit .327 this season but in 26 postseason plate appearances in his career, Mauer has just one RBI.

On the mound, the Yankees will go with a three man rotation of CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, and Phil Hughes. That means, if needed, Sabathia would pitch Game 4 on three days rest. The Yankees like that option rather than having A.J. Burnett pitch.

The Twins will counter with a four man rotation of Francisco Liriano, Carl Pavano, Brian Duensing, and Nick Blackburn. While Blackburn is just 10-12 this season with an ERA over 5.00, he has beaten the Yankees twice. Pavano, a former Yankee, had a nice year for Minnesota, going 17-11 with a 3.75 ERA. Liriano, a lefty, was 14-10 with a 3.62 ERA while Duensing is having a great year at 10-3 with a very low 2.62 ERA.

ALDS

American League Division Series

After Sabathia, the Yankees have question marks in the rotation. Is Pettitte healthy enough? The veteran is a key factor in the Yankees playoff run. Which Phil Hughes will the Yankees get? Will he start to get tired?

The Yankees probably have a slight edge in the bullpen as well. Mariano Rivera is the best closer the game has ever seen, but he did go through a rough patch in September. Kerry Wood brought stability to the setup role and will be a key factor for New York along with Joba Chamberlain.

The Twins did not have stud closer Joe Nathan this year and also had lost Jon Rauch to injury. No problem. The team went out and acquired Matt Capps. Since taking over the Twins closer role, Capps has converted 16 of 18 save opportunities and does have 109 career saves.

Position By Position Comparison

1st Base

Yankees:  Mark Teixeira, .256, 33 HR, 108 RBI

Twins: Michael Cuddyer, .271, 14 HR, 81 RBI

2nd Base

Yankees: Robinson Cano, .319, 29 HR, 109 RBI

Twins: Orlando Hudson, .268, 6 HR, 37 RBI

Shortstop

Yankees:  Derek Jeter, .270, 10 HR, 67 RBI

Twins:  J.J. Hardy, .268, 6 HR, 38 RBI

3rd Base

Yankees:  Alex Rodriguez, .270, 30 HR, 125 RBI

Twins:  Danny Valencia, .311, 7 HR, 40 RBI

Catcher

Yankees:  Jorge Posada, .248, 18 HR, 57 RBI

Twins:  Joe Mauer, .327, 9 HR, 75 RBI

Left Field

Yankees:  Brett Gardner, .277, 5 HR, 47 RBI

Twins:  Delmon Young, .298, 21 HR, 112 RBI

Center Field

Yankees:  Curtis Granderson, .247, 24 HR, 67 RBI

Twins:  Denard Span, .264, 3 HR, 58 RBI

Right Field

Yankees:  Nick Swisher, .288, 29 HR, 89 RBI

Twins:  Jason Kubel, .249, 21 HR, 92 RBI

Designated Hitter

Yankees:  Lance Berkman, .255, 1 HR, 9 RBI with NY;  Marcus Thames, .288, 12 HR, 33 RBI

Twins:  Jim Thome, .283, 25 HR, 59 RBI

Prediction

While the Twins do have a decent pitching staff and nice talent throughout the lineup, the Yankees look like the better team. The Yankees lineup will not be scared of the Twins pitching and will score enough runs to support Pettitte and Hughes. Sabathia is the type of horse that can run through the Twins. New York also has much better depth if needed.

Yankees over Twins in 4 games.

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