By Lenn Robbins
After the Yankees swept the Twins in such dominating fashion in their ALDS, the first thought before the first Champagne cork went flying was, “How the hell did this team win 101 games and crush 307 home runs?”
The Twins couldn’t have slain Bambi no less the dragon known as the Yankees
“We were outplayed for three games, and it’s OK to acknowledge that,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli told reporters. “They pitched better than us, they swung the bats better than us, and they defended better than us.”
Yep. Yep. And yep.
The three Yankees starters – James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka and Luis Severino – combined for a dazzling 2.63 ERA. The deepest bullpen in baseball did its job. Didi Gregorius broke out of his slump – bigtime. Giancarlo Stanton, injured virtually the entire season, worked out four walks in three games. Every button manager Aaron Boone pushed – Brett Gardner, Cameron Maybin – was a winner.
Now the Yankees wait to see if Houston can finish off Tampa Bay Tuesday night or if the Bombers get more rest while the Astros and Rays play a Game 5 in Texas.
More rest? Who needs stinking rest? The Yankees seem to be in such a good place after dusting off the Twins, 23-7 the aggregate score in three games, you’d think rest was the last thing they want.
But the Yankees should take this good fortune and sleep on it.
The next round can’t be as easy as the last round.
The Astros, who eliminated the Yankees in the 2017 ALCS, have thought of themselves as the best team in baseball the last three seasons and it’s hard to argue with their 311-175 record.
The Rays have gone head-to-head with the Yankees in the AL East. They don’t see Game of Thrones dragons in the Yankees dugout but mere mortals that can be held in check by their elite starting pitching.
“It doesn’t really matter to me who we play to be honest,’’ Gardner told reporters. “If we play our game and play well, we’ll win. And if we don’t, we won’t. It’s as simple as that. Rays or Astros, it doesn’t matter. If we play the way we’re capable of playing, we don’t have anything to worry about.”
Yes, they do.
Both the Astros and Rays have much better pitching than the Twins. And the Astros have a relentless lineup. They were 4-3 against the Yankees this season and would have a Game 7 in Houston. The Yankees bested the Rays, 12-7.
Whereas the Twins had no postseason history of success against the Bombers, the Astros have that win in 2017, a fact Aaron Judge has mentioned at times.
“I mention it as something to fuel us, but it doesn’t matter who we face going forward,” Judge said. “If we continue to play our game, if we continue to do that, we’ll be where we want to be.”
Perhaps. But it won’t be as easy as those polite folks from Minnesota made it.