John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |
The baseball post-season is supposed to be unpredictable--a crapshoot, as many call it, most famously the sport's movie star GM, Billy Beane. Yet this Yankees-Twins series feels more like a 1-16 matchup in the NCAA Tournament.
And the Twins don't look like the University of Maryland - Baltimore County, taking down Virginia, circa 2017.
In fact, it's almost like the Twins have no chance, especially now that the Yankees have scored 18 runs in winning the first two games, including Saturday's 8-2 win that was over by the third inning.
So is it that the Yankees are unstoppable, with an offense that is about as healthy as it's been all year, and perhaps peaking at the perfect time?
That's certainly part of the equation, with D.J. LeMahieu adding a high-contact dimension that was missing last October, with Aaron Judge on base every time you look up, with Edwin Encarnacion coming back just in time to be a dangerous middle-of-the-lineup presence that takes a lot of pressure off Giancarlo Stanton.
Nobody has a deeper lineup, top to bottom, a point Didi Gregorius drove home with a grand slam from the No. 8 hole on Saturday, turning the game into a 7-0 rout in the third inning.
As Gregorius himself said afterward, "That just shows you what we're capable of, with everybody helping us win. We don't rely on one person. It's always like that for us."
Yes, the Yankees have been impressive, in part because they're not just mauling the Twins with home runs, but looking like a well-rounded offense, putting the ball in play and wearing down the opposing pitchers with their plate discipline and patience, which has resulted in 16 walks in two games.
But with that in mind, let's be honest: the Twins have looked completely overmatched so far, mostly on the pitching side, seemingly intimidated by both the Yankee lineup and the hostile environment here in the Bronx into nibbling around the strike zone, getting behind in counts and either adding to the walk total or throwing one down the middle.
To some extent this was predictable, with so many of these Twins' pitchers being exposed to this type of big-stage setting for the first time.
Yet somehow the Twins themselves apparently thought such external factors were no issue. How else do you explain the decision to start Randy Dobnak, a 24-year old righthander with five major-league starts under his belt, who is best known for having a part-time job as recently as spring training as an Uber driver.
It made for a nice story, told on national TV for the first time Saturday, but in selecting Dobnak the Twins bypassed their No. 2 starter, Jake Odorizzi, a veteran of 188 big-league starts.
Twins' manager Rocco Baldelli explained the decision was made because Dobnak is a ground-ball pitcher, which is preferable in Yankee Stadium, and cited his ground-ball percentage as one of the highest in baseball.
That sounds nice if you take the human element out of the equation, which, of course you can't. The simple truth is that Dobnak was much more likely to be affected by the high-pressure setting, complete with a raucous Yankee crowd, than someone like Odorizzi.
In other words, analytics are great, as long as teams factor in context.
In any case, Dobnak was predictably shaky, and gone by the third inning, when the Yankees knocked him out and then beat up on Tyler Duffey for a second straight night.
Afterward Baldelli insisted there was no regret in starting Dobnak, who gave up six hits and two walks in two-plus innings, and even went so far as to say, "I thought he threw the ball pretty well."
So suffice it to say everything is going the Yankees' way, and while the Twins could still put up a fight at home, it's only a matter of how much longer before Aaron Boone's ballclub is getting ready for the ALCS and an expected showdown with the big, bad Astros.
With that in mind, Boone was asked what the message to his team would be as they head for Minnesota:
"Throttle down," he said. "We've got to make sure we go out and match their energy. I'm sure their crowd will be energized, and we need to go match it, and I know we will."
In that sense, Game 3 might be even more revealing of just how high the level is the Yankees are playing at right now. Maybe we shouldn't underestimate just how hungry they are, after being denied in the post-season the last two years.
"That's been driving us all year," was the way Judge put it Saturday night. "We're focused on what we want to do."
They also have Luis Severino on the mound in Game 3, and while they may not say it, the Yankees are anxious to see how their one-time ace pitches in such a big spot after making only three September starts all season.
If he looks sharp, the Yankees could practically will their way to a sweep, and then if the Astros do their part as well, we can move on to the series the whole world is dying to see. Suffice it to say it will have a little more suspense than this one.