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Monday, July 17, 2017
MLB Spotlight Series: New York Yankees at Minnesota Twins
Paul Molitor's Twins face key mid-season series vs Yankees
When the 2017 MLB season began, few would have guessed that a mid-July series between the New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins could be so significant. But here we are, and this is indeed a series that has become important for both clubs.
Led by explosive rookie Aaron Judge, the Yankees took over the AL East Division lead in mid-April. New York held that lead for the most part right up through late June. But a 9-20 mark since June 12 has dropped the Bronx Bombers into third place, 3.5 games behind the arch-rival Boston Red Sox.
The Twins were the biggest surprise team in all of Major League Baseball over the first couple of months. For much of the same time that the Yanks were leading their division, the Twins were on top of the AL Central.
Just as with New York, the Twins have slowed measurably. Since their high-water mark at seven games over .500 on May 24, Minnesota is just 21-27. The Twins have dropped four of their last five games heading into this series.
The American League Wild Card standings after games on Sunday, July 16 show the Yankees still control the second of the two available postseason berths. The Twins are just 1.5 games out, two games behind the Yanks in the loss column.
This week’s clash at Target Field in Minneapolis marks the first meeting of the season between the two teams. They will not meet again until a three-gamer at Yankee Stadium in late September.
As you can see, there are no marquee match-ups here. In fact, issues involving the lack of quality starting pitching are the main culprit for both of these teams. If neither one figures it out, it’s possible, perhaps likely, that neither ends up playing October baseball.
Can the ageless wonder Colon get back to the form that made him a fan favorite in both Oakland and with the New York Mets late in his career? If he performs as he did in Atlanta prior to his release last month, he won’t be long for the Twin Cities.
Berrios is a talented rookie who got off hot after first being promoted. He has not officially been announced for the start, but it falls on his day to pitch. Over his last few starts he has been a mess. The Twins need Berrios to regain his form and confidence quickly.
In looking at the two teams’ statistical production, the Yankees would appear to be clearly the better team. New York is third in all of MLB with 488 runs scored, while Minnesota’s total of 415 ranks them 19th in the game.
With a combined .784 OPS, the Yanks rank fourth in baseball, while the Twins’ .736 mark is just 20th in MLB. On the base paths they are about even, with the Yankees holding a 56-52 edge in stolen bases, and a 77.78-77.61 advantage in stolen base percentage.
On the mound, the New York pitching staff has a combined .238 batting average against, the fourth best mark in the game. The Twins staff is at .271, way down at 27th in all of MLB.
Strikeouts (6th – 30th), walks (5th – 18th) and quality starts (10th – 26th) are all easily in favor of the New York Yankees pitching staff. There is a slight fielding edge for the Twins, who have made the fourth-fewest errors in baseball. The Yanks’ 55 errors leave them a middle-of-the-pack 15th.
The Yankees are coming off a split of a four-game series at Boston. It began an 11-game road trip that continues here in Minneapolis, and then moves out to Seattle.
Manager Joe Girardi was quoted by NJ.com’s Brendan Kuty on what would make the trip successful. “I think you try to win every series. We didn’t win this (Boston) series, but we didn’t lose it. You try to win every series and if you do that, good things will happen.”
These are two teams who have had it rough of late, each looking for those good things to happen. For the Twins, playing at home with far less expected of them, it’s a chance to reverse fortunes and prove they really belong in the race. For the Yankees, a chance to separate from their closest pursuer in the overall AL standings.