The 2017 MLB Postseason kicks off tonight when the New York Yankees host the Minnesota Twins in the AL Wildcard Game in the Bronx. Paul Molitor will hand the ball to 34 year old right-hander Ervin Santana, while 23 year old right-hander Luis Severino will take the mound in his first postseason appearance. The Yankees won the season-series, 4-2, including a three-game sweep of the Twins toward the end of September.
The winner of the Wildcard Game will move on to face the number one seeded team in Cleveland.
Brian Dozier was the offensive leader for Minnesota this season, collecting a .269 average with 34 home runs and 93 RBI. Dozier fared well against the Yankees this season, going 6-19 but with just one RBI. Miguel Sano was activated from the disabled list last weekend and could add some thump to the lineup for this one. The slugger belted two homers and collected four RBI in three-games against the Evil Empire in 2017.
Minnesota ranked seventh in the majors after they averaged 5.03 runs per game, combining to hit .260 as a team.
Aaron Judge will be in the spotlight after he put together a phenomenal rookie campaign in which the 25 year-old slugger paired 52 homers with 114 RBI. Judge damaged the Twins in six games, going 6 of 19 at-bats with two home runs and six RBI. Judge, however, can be pitched to; the Rays were incredibly successful against Judge because they kept the ball at the bottom of the zone and on the outside corner. Thanks to his time with the ChiSox, Todd Frazier is very familiar with Minnesota. Frazier went 5-39 with four RBI against the Twins this season, and belted two homers with three RBI in 21 career at-bats against Santana.
The Bronx Bummers ranked second in the majors after they averaged 5.30 runs per game, combining to hit .262 as a team.
The Twins 4.59 team ERA is worrisome, placing them in the bottom third in the Major Leagues. The Yankees pitching staff, on the other hand, was terrific, performing to a 3.73 team ERA — ranking them fifth in the big leagues.
As Adam Rauzino (Winners and Whiners) noted, Ervin Santana has been outstanding on the road this season, going 10-3 with a stifling 2.71 ERA in his 17 road starts. Furthermore, Santana has pitched well against the Yankees over the last three seasons, limiting them to 10 runs (nine earned) in 25.2 innings which equates to a solid 3.16 ERA. The Twins did score three runs in three innings against Severino this season, plus the Twins feature solid Postseason experience as Santana and Mauer have seen action in the playoffs.
Santana will make his ninth career postseason appearance. The right-hander turned in an excellent season, performing to a 16-8 record and a 3.28 ERA with a 1.13 WHIP over 211-1/3 innings of work. He was solid in his lone start against New York, limiting the Yankees to just two runs over 5-2/3 innings in a game Minnesota lost 2-1. The 34 year-old has struggled against the Yankees over his career, going 6-10 with a sub-optimal 5.66 ERA in 20 career starts. He, however, has limited the Yankees to only 10 runs (nine earned) in 25-2/3 innings of work over the last three seasons. Santana has struggled in his postseason career, notching a poor 5.56 ERA in 22-2/3 innings. Key Matchups: Greg Bird (2-5, 2 HR, 4 RBI), Jacoby Ellsbury (10-34, HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB), Brett Gardner (11-31, 3 2B, 2 BB), Chase Headley (4-13, 2B), Matt Holiday (2 2B, 2 HR, 3 RBI), Aaron Judge (1-3, HR, RBI), Austin Romine (2-3, 2B, RBI)
Severino will make his first career postseason appearance after he turned in a solid 2017 campaign. The right-hander accompanied a 14-6 record over 31 starts with an impressive 2.98 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP. He made one career start against Minnesota on September 20, allowing three runs over three innings in a game the Yankees won 11-3. Severino has amassed 230 strikeouts over 193-1/3 innings, resulting in a 10.71 K/9 ratio. Key Matchups: Jason Castro (1-1), Brian Dozier (1-1, BB), Joe Mauer (1-2, RBI), Jorge Polanco (1-2, 2 RBI), Kennys Vargas (1-1)