AL Divisional Series Predictions: Yankees Vs. Twins
by Robert Ferringo - 10/7/2009
Congratulations Minnesota! You just won a modern October classic against Detroit on Tuesday to earn the American League Central crown and a ticket to the "real" playoffs. Your prize is…wait for it...a trip to the Bronx to face the best team in baseball.
At 6 p.m. today Minnesota will begin their American League Divisional Series against the New York Yankees. The Yankees have been instilled as an enormous -285 favorite with C.C. Sabathia on the hill against Minnesota's Brian Duensing. The total is set at a robust 9.5.
The Twins, who played a five-hour nail-biter with the Tigers on Tuesday night, had to pack up their party in the locker room, fly out of Minnesota last night, grab a few hours of sleep in Manhattan, and then get themselves geared up to deal with the top seed in the A.L. and the team with the best record in baseball. They'll be doing so with a depleted bullpen and an exhausted squad backing a rookie left-handed pitcher that's started all of nine games in his career.
Now, before we go ahead and give the Yankees a free pass into the next round we have to consider the impossible: that the Twins could win this series. I know, I know: it's ridiculous. But let's just consider it.
This Minnesota team is following an eerily similar path as another incredible October story from the recent past - the 2007 Colorado Rockies. The Rockies went on a savage tear to close out the year (the Twins are 17-4 in their last 21 games) just to salvage a one-game playoff for the final playoff slot. Both Colorado and Minnesota won an emotional extra inning game, at home, with a breathtaking comeback, by one run. Then, Colorado had to go on the road to take on the East division winner, Philadelphia, whom they dispatched en route to winning the pennant and going on to the World Series.
The Twins were No. 5 in the Majors in scoring this year and No. 3 in batting average, so they may be able to mash with the Yankees lineup. Also, Minnesota is tied for No. 1 in the league - tied with the Yankees and Angels - as the top hitting team in baseball against left-handed pitching. And with the Yanks trotting out two southpaw starters in this series you never know.
So could the Twins ride a wave of momentum, adrenaline and destiny to an improbable upset in the same way as the Rockies did? Well, it wouldn't be the most stunning upset I've ever seen but it would be a pretty big one.
The Yankees won 103 games this year and have the most complete team in baseball. They are a stellar 41-17 in their last 58 games and 41-13 in their last 54 home games. There are no holes in their lineup and they bring a combination of speed, power, experience, and savvy that is unrivaled. New York's pitching is superb and they will be rolling with a rotation of Sabathia, 13-game winner A.J. Burnett, and October legend Andy Pettitte.
The Yankees are the gold standard in all of sports in terms of postseason success and beating them, especially in a series that they have home field advantage, is going to take a bit more than a few lucky breaks and some good, old-fashioned hustle.
I think one of the keys to this series is the fact that the Yankees will be able to use fireballer Joba Chamberlain out of the bullpen. Chamberlain will team with Phil Hughes as the primary setup men for The Hammer of God, Mariano Rivera. In essence, that trio can turn each of these games into a six-inning contest before the Yanks bullpen can slam the door. That doesn't leave the Twins much margin for error against a solid starting rotation.
The good news for the Twins is that they will be relying on the same group of arms that went on this recent 17-4 tear. The bad news is that this handicapper isn't putting a ton of faith in guys like Nick Blackburn, Carl Pavano (you think the Yankees don't want a piece of him?), Scott Baker and Duensing. Further, the Twins bullpen has been very shaky all year. And late-inning leakage is not something that you want to have to worry about while going against a Yanks lineup with no weakness and no quit.
Finally, the Yankees are an amazing 23-3 in their last 26 regular season meetings with Minnesota. That includes a perfect 6-0 mark against them this year. Now, that type of domination didn't help the Los Angeles Angels last year in the opening round against Boston (the Angels were 8-1 against the Sox in the regular season but lost in four games in the ALDS). However, those numbers are really tough to ignore.
The Yankees are 25-5 against the Twins in the Bronx and they are an incredible 47-16 against them over the last 63 meetings. That works out to a 3-1 series win for New York if the numbers hold.
It's easy to pencil the Yankees in to the ALCS. It's easy because they are an incredible team. Momentum and magic this time of year are funny things and have been known to carry more than one underdog to amazing heights. However, Mystique and Aura are dusting off their boobie tassels as we speak. And Minnesota's momentum may not last longer than the first inning this evening in what could be a brief and bloody series.
Robert Ferringo is a professional handicapper and you can purchase a full season's package of his football selections for just $25 per week! Click here for details.
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