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The Yankees defeated the Twins 8-2 on Saturday, which gives them a 2-0 lead in the ALDS. >> Box Score
Five Takeaways from Saturday's Game
1) This Yankees' offense looks unstoppable. It led the American League in runs scored, set a new team record with 305 home runs, and now it has put up 18 runs over the first two games of the postseason. Perhaps most significantly, so far the Bronx Bombers haven't had to rely primarily on the long ball, hitting three home runs, including Didi Gregorius' grand slam Saturday.
Instead they've put the ball in play while also wearing down the Twins' pitching with their patience, resulting in 16 walks. As expected, D.J. LeMahieu's contact-hitting has made a difference, and Aaron Judge has been on base seven times, with four walks and three hits, looking locked in at the plate.
Obviously it could be a different story if the Yankees eventually have to face the Astros' starters in the ALCS, but for a team that last October didn't hit in the clutch or make enough contact, it's a good sign.
2) The Twins paid for outsmarting themselves, pitching Randy Dobnak, a kid with five big-league starts, in such a hostile, high-pressure environment over a more proven veteran like Jake Odorizzi. Manager Rocco Baldelli cited Dobnak's high ground-ball percentage as his reasoning, which makes sense until you factor the human element into the equation.
Dobnak, knocked out in the third inning, is a great story, the Uber driver who zoomed through the Twins system this season after being plucked from an independent league. But Odorizzi, a veteran with 188 big-league starts, was much more equipped to handle everything that came with pitching Game 2 in the Bronx, which would have allowed the Twins to save Dobnak for a home start.
3) Masahiro Tanaka is the new Mr. October. Magically, he seems to be able to raise his game in October, coming into this game with a 1.50 ERA in five postseason starts, and he did it again on Saturday, shutting down the powerful Twins' offense over five innings. He threw 83 pitches and could have gone longer but with the big lead, Aaron Boone probably wants to keep him fresh for what's ahead.
Tanaka had a so-so season, pitching to a 4.48 ERA, admitting he couldn't get a feel for his splitter with the 2019 baseball that so many pitchers have complained about, mostly because the seams are less raised, harder to grip. However, Tanaka changed his grip late in the year to compensate, and here he was, commanding his slider and splitter beautifully on Saturday, getting the Twins hitters to chase pitches while racking up seven strikeouts.
4) With his impending free agency hovering over this post-season, Didi Gregorius made a statement of sorts with a grand slam to break open the game, giving the Yankees a 7-0 lead in the third inning.
Gregorius had a down season, hitting .238 with a .718 OPS after returning in June from Tommy John surgery, and the emergence of Gio Urshela, as well as the spectacular play LeMahieu, might tempt the Yankees to move Gleyber Torres to shortstop rather than pay big bucks for Gregorius, who turns 30 next February.
In his favor, however, Didi has had a knack for delivering big hits for this team, and he gives the Yankees some lefthanded-hitting presence the lineup desperately needs.
5) The Giancarlo Stanton intrigue is starting to build. He doesn't look particularly good at the plate, but he's done just enough in the midst of two high-scoring wins to keep the fans from turning on him.
On Saturday, he grounded into a first-inning double play to kill a rally, and then in the third, with the game still just 1-0, he came up with the bases loaded and hit a sacrifice fly to fairly deep center. The problem was he should have hit it about 500 feet, considering he got a hanging breaking ball, belt-high, from Tyler Duffey. But the Yankees went on to score six more runs in the inning, so Stanton was no issue.
For the series he's 0-for-3 but he's also walked four times, showing some plate discipline that is a good sign for him. Still, the Yankees would love to see him get a little mojo going with the bat before he potentially has to face the likes of Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole.
Following an off day on Sunday, the series moves to Minnesota for Game 3 on Monday at 8:40 p.m. Luis Severino is scheduled to get the start for the Yankees, with Jake Odorizzi going for the Twins. The Yankees can advance to the ALCS with a win.