MLB

Yankees vs. Twins takeaways: Bombers push Minnesota to brink of elimination in Game 2 beatdown

Stranglehold is more than a Ted Nugent song.

The Yankees got just what the doctor ordered on Saturday, squashing any hope of a Twins win early in Game 2 of the ALDS, an 8-2 victory in the Bronx.

Postseason Masahiro Tanaka has been activated: Tanaka pitched five innings of one-run baseball before turning the game over to the staunch Yankees bullpen, which silenced the Twins bats over four shutdown innings.

The series now shifts to Minnesota, where the Twins will look to end their playoff woes vs. the Yankees and pull off the reverse sweep and advance to the ALCS.

No fly zone

The only people who rival Masahiro Tanaka’s October success are the folks who open Spirit Halloween stores across the country.

Pressure and clutch are very tough, if not impossible, to quantify, but since Masahiro Tanaka has been a Yankee, he’s been lights-out when the calendar flips to October; entering Saturday’s matchup, Tanaka pitched to a 1.50 ERA in five postseason starts, allowing five runs in 30 innings of work. He added five more innings of one-run baseball on Saturday. Ho hum, how boring.

The Yankees’ offense gave Tanaka an early boost, and Tanaka got stronger as his outing went on. What’s most important is how Tanaka kept the ball down in the zone, and by proxy, in the ballpark. In 2019, no team had a higher rate of fly balls than the Twins (39.3 percent, per Fangraphs). Tanaka allowed just one ball to reach the outfield on the fly over his five innings of work, striking out seven in the process.

Whether the Yankees have a true horse’s ace in the rotation is up for debate, but as far as postseason baseball is concerned, Tanaka is as much of a lock as it gets in the majors.

Backs against the wall

The Twins, winners of 101 games this season, lost three games or more just twice this season, so it’s fair to expect them to steal at least one of the potential two games back at Target Field. 

There’s a catch: Minnesota went 19-8 in September, playing 13 games at home. In those 13 games, they went 7-6, so they were not entirely dominant down the stretch defending home field.

Jake Odorizzi will take the ball in Game 3, and he’s turned it around after a rough July, pitching to a 7.43 ERA. In nine starts between August and September, Odorizzi pitched to a 3.04 ERA and allowed just two home runs with 65 strikeouts in 50 1/3 innings.

In his career, Odorizzi has a 4.71 ERA vs. the Yankees in 18 games (17 starts), including two Jekyll-and-Hyde type starts in 2019. In his May outing vs. New York, Odorizzi struck out eight in six innings, walking four and not allowing a run. In July, he was charged with nine earned runs in four innings at Target Field vs. the Bombers.

The Yankees aren’t afraid to score runs in Minnesota, either: In their three-game set in late July, the Yankees hammered the Twins, scoring 30 runs over the three-game set, taking two of three in the series.

We’ll see what Odorizzi and the Twins can offer come Monday in Minny.

Nothing but a G thing

Gary Sánchez and Giancarlo Stanton are real offensive theats, but through two games, the bats have been a bit quiet.

Stanton has a sole RBI, a sac fly on Saturday. He’s drawn four walks in two games, but has also left a small village on the bags in both affairs. Sánchez, who was dealing with a groin injury down the stretch has been quiet in two games: he’s struck out three times between both games and is still looking for his first 2019 postseason hit.

The good thing for Stanton is that he’s drawing his walks, after all. He’s worked four base on balls in seven plate appearances so far, striking out just once in that span. He’s seeing the ball well, after all.

As long as the Yankees are scoring runs, no one will scream about the lack of quantifiable contributions from the G men. That’s a positive and a negative: positive because New York doesn’t have to worry about scoring with those two not producing at the moment, but a negative because they haven’t gotten going just yet.

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