AL Wild Card: Can Judge Power New York Back To ALDS?

All eyes will be on the rookie phenom as the Yankees and Twins vie for the Division Series.

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2017 American League Wild Card Game

Minnesota Twins (Ervin Santana) @ NY Yankees (Luis Severino)

Tuesday, October 3, 2017- Yankee Stadium

8:00 PM EST- ESPN

The Yankees and Twins are set to renew acquaintances on Tuesday night when Paul Molitor’s upstart Twins head into the Bronx to take on Aaron Judge and the Bombers. The American League Divison Series hangs in the balance.

New York came close to stealing the AL East from Boston, but their hated rivals prevailed in the end and Joe Girardi’s squad finds itself in the Wild Card Game for the second time in three seasons. In 2015 the Yankees were blanked by Dallas Keuchel and the Astros 3-0, also at home.  Minnesota, on the other hand, surprised the League with a late season surge that earned the team its first playoff appearance in seven years.

The Twins and Yankees know all about each other in the playoffs. The two teams have met four times in the ALDS since 2000, with New York emerging as the victor all four times.  If the Twins want to exorcise their Yankee demons, they will need a strong performance from their starter. Ervin Santana was one of the best pitchers in the Junior Circuit this year and is a possibility for Comeback Player of the Year.  His 16-8 record and 3.28 ERA are pretty impressive considering Minnesota’s struggles with consistency this year. The Twinkies’ chances hinge heavily on his performance. Miguel Sano is returning from the DL for the game, very, very good news for the Twins.

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Will Dozier, Buxton and the Twins be able to knock off the slugging Yankees?

On the Yankees’ side, it’s all about the behemoth. To say Aaron Judge’s 2017 season was remarkable would be an immense understatement, even if he did struggle for a majority of the second half. He has Rookie of the Year more than locked up and will contend with Jose Altuve for MVP. But how will the 25-year-old handle his first taste of the postseason? The team will have to be ready to pick the youngster up if the pressure proves too great.

Luis Severino gets the well-deserved honor of starting for the Yankees. Like Santana, he was one of the surprises of the season in the American League and could be the third finalist for the Cy Young behind Corey Kluber and Chris Sale. He has no chance of winning, of course, but it does speak to the remarkable season he’s had: 14-6 with a 2.98 ERA.

The Yankees are the favorite in the matchup and have the more proven lineup. The Twins have their work cut out for them with Judge leading a homer happy batting order that also includes Todd Frazier and Gary Sanchez. Minnesota’s best chance lies in being aggressive early and knocking out Severino. The Yankees have a strong bullpen and it will serve the Twins well to force it into the game early.

As for the Yankees, they may have the better team, but they cannot sell Minnesota short. The Twins have proven tons of people wrong this year and could very well continue that trend with an upset in New York. The Yanks can’t afford to underestimate their rival, even with all the home run power they boast.

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