Playoffs? Don’t talk about playoffs! Well apologies to Jim Mora, but we’re going to do exactly that. It’s October! Our first game on the docket is an American League Wild Card matchup that promises to be a fun one, with a pair of righties dueling for the chance to pitch in the Division Series. Check ’em out!
RHP Ervin Santana (MIN) versus RHP Luis Severino (NYY) a�� 8:09 p.m. ET, ESPN
The Yankees have owned the Twins this seasona��including most notably in the Bronx, where they got a series sweep just over two weeks ago. However, it isn’t an impossibility that the blueprint for a Twins win exists, and in fact was found in that same dominant series for the Yankees.
Santana started the first game of the series in the Bronx and allowed just two earned runsa��including the obligatory home run to Aaron Judgea��over 5.2 innings in a 2-1 loss. He’s easily the Twins’ best option to win a game on any given day. And that was evident when he took a hard-luck loss back on Sept. 18.
Severino, on the other hand, started two days later, lasting only three innings in what wound up being an 11-3 Yankees win. The 23-year-old righty threw an astonishing 71 pitchesa��including 46 in the pivotal third inninga��allowing three earned runs in what was the first and to date only matchup he’s ever had against the Twins.
Might it have made sense for the Yankees to shield the Twins from Severino in that final series? After all, Masahiro Tanaka was slated to start that final game before the Yankees made the swap. Perhaps that’s true. But there’s also no proof that Severino might not have fared the same way the first time he faced the Twins either way. It’s impossible to say. But we do know this: the Twins are a lefty-dominant lineup that’ll be in its element in Yankee Stadium, which has a home run park factor of 142 for lefty hitters.
Santana doesn’t have much of a a�?times through the ordera�? penalty. And thus, might have a very long leash from manager Paul Molitor. Having an iffy bullpen behind him only strengthens that case. Opposing batters have a collective .611 OPS against Santana the first time they see him this season, an .800 mark the second time, a .667 mark the third time and just a .232 mark (3-for-29) in rarely-seen fourth trips through the order.
But while Santana is a veteran pitcher who had an inferior season to Severino, his leash is bound to be longer as the youngster is backed by a tremendous bullpen featuring the likes of Tommy Kahnle, David Robertson, Chad Green and Aroldis Chapman. Severino, as we’ve noted, was the third horse in a two-horse race for most of the season among Cy Young contenders after Chris Sale and Corey Kluber. An improved changeup and better command has made him into an ace. And of course, a formidable foe for the Twins in this matchup.
No matter what happens, this should be a fun ride. Here’s to the postseason, folks. Cheers, and enjoy the ride!