By sweeping the Twins, the Yankees pushed their lead for the American League's first wild card spot to seven games. If the season were to end today, the clubs would meet up in the AL Wild Card game at Yankee Stadium. What did the series tell us about the potential wild card matchup?
Potential pitching matchup
The Yankees saw the Twins' best pitcher and the Twins saw the Yankees' ace. It is presumed that the clubs would try their best to arrange these pitchers to be their starters in a potential wild card game. The Yankees were able to put pressure on Ervin Santana, but couldn't find the big hit in a game, scoring just two runs off the veteran.
The Twins were able to get a glimpse of Luis Severino in Wednesday's series finale, knocking him out after just three innings. Severino was done in by a 13-pitch at-bat against Joe Mauer, part of a 45-pitch inning.
If these are the combatants, figure each pitcher makes some adjustments, and a tight game could be in store. Despite hitters seeing pitchers in this series, Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Tuesday that's not always an indication things will be easier the second time around.
"It really comes down to a pitcher making his pitches," Girardi said. "Obviously as a hitter you'd love to see them as much as you can, so you have an idea [of what to expect]. But, it really comes down them making their pitches."
The Twins bust it on every play
This isn't to say that the Yankees do not play hard, but the manner in which the Twins come out of the batter's box is different. I witnessed this firsthand Tuesday night. The Twins have taken on the demeanor of their manager, Paul Molitor, who was a grinder during his Hall of Fame career. Even on the most routine ground ball, the Twins batters -- whether fast or not -- dug hard for first base. The Twins might be outmatched at some positions insofar as talent, but they can make it up with their style of play.
There has been some offensive ineptitude
As poor as the Yankees were in the first two games of the series with runners in scoring position (3-for-28), the Twins were statistically worse (1-for-13). The Yankees didn't capitalize on a multitude of scoring chances in those games, but they managed a productive out in Monday's game and received two big two-out hits in the second game. The Twins could not muster the clutch hit in either contest. In the final game of the series, both teams performed better with runners in scoring position, but the Yankees simply had more chances and firepower.
The bullpen favors the Yankees
The Yankees have the ability to cover up a good deal of issues with their bullpen, and did so in this series, tossing 12 1/3 innings of scoreless ball. The Yankees relief crew allowed just three hits, walked five, and struck out 15 in the three games. The Twins bullpen, which consists of 14 relievers this September, was taxed in the last two games, working 9 1/3 innings. In that span, they allowed seven runs (six earned) as well as two inherited runners from a starter to score.
It is well-known that the Wild Card game winner can be determined by a bad bounce or simple poor luck. However, based on the recent series, the Yankees should be viewed as having an edge over the Twins should that be the A.L. Wild Card matchup.