New decade, new players, same teams, same results. The 101-win Twins became the first 100 win team to ever be swept in the first round of an MLB postseason since 1980 because of course they did. They were playing the Yankees, who thoroughly manhandled them. The Yankees won this game 5-1 (box score) and outscored the Twins 23-7 in the three-game sweep. New look Twins? Give me a break. The Yankees are returning to the ALCS and they don’t know their opponent yet. Life is good. Life is very good.
I’ll have more thoughts on this in the morning–somehow I didn’t get it all out in the below monster takeaways–but I gotta say. The Yankees pitching staff held the monster Twins offense to seven runs across three games and the defense–coupled with expert shifting–mitigated a lot of hard contact and probably won the team this game. You have to tip your cap.
Anyway, we’ll have a lot more on this in the days to come, so get right to the takeaways.
1. A Tale of Two Luis Severinos: Okay, so let’s just get this out of the way right away: holy crap did Luis Severino battle through this one. His stuff was electric but all over the place and he really had no command at all coming out of the game. He felt like a disaster waiting to happen, frankly, and I thought he was going to get tattooed or at least only last an inning or two. But there were two Luis Severinos tonight: the one pitching with the bases empty and the one pitching with a guy on base. Thankfully, the latter was a truly dominant force.
Here was his line on the night: 4.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 4 K. And boy where those four strikeouts–as you’ll see below, three of those four came with runners in scoring position and two of them with two outs. Those are the strikeouts of a big-time pitcher right there. Anyway, here was Severino’s pitch usage for the night:
- Fastball: 42 (5 whiffs)
- Slider: 27 (4 whiffs)
- Changeup: 14 (1 whiff)
That’s 10 whiffs, which is great, but also 18 foul balls, which is why it felt like Severino was teetering on the edge the entire game. Anyway, here is his velocity chart:
Severino was bringing the heat, that’s for sure, but not in the first, when he was sitting 94 mph and was all over the place. He surrendered a leadoff walk to Max Kepler, and check out the strike zone plot for the 1st inning:
Yeesh. He was nowhere near the zone or right down broadway, but he recovered to get a pop-fly to Stanton in left and a huge double play off the bat of the always terrifying Nelson Cruz. He was still shaky in the second inning, when this happened:
- Eddie Rosario: double off the wall (I thought it was gone off the bat)
- Mitch Garver: five-pitch walk
- Luis Arraez: single to left
That loaded the bases with nobody out for Miguel Sanó–and man oh man did Severino turn it on in this at-bat, but not before Sanó made him work. It’s worth looking at the plot of this at-bat because you can pinpoint exactly where Severino turned it around:
See pitch 7 there? That was a biting slider–really, it felt like Severino’s first good pitch of the game–and he didn’t look back. He induced a pop-up on the very next pitch to Sanó and then completely overpowered Marwin Gonzalez and former Yankee Jake Cave on two consecutive strikeouts to end the inning and escape unscathed. It was a classic moment–one of those “punch the air five million times and almost dislocate your shoulder” moments for me–so it’s worth watching the video if you missed it live. Check it out:
Severino again had to work out of trouble in the third–a two-out single put runners on first and second–but he again got a strikeout to get out of the inning. A 1-2-3 fourth followed, and that was it for the Yankees’ ace. All told, a really impressive outing after just three regular season starts. It’s not easy to battle like that on the road, but Severino did it. Consider me very impressed.
2. Brett Garder for How Long? Brett Gardner Forever: I have written so many words about Brett Gardner this season. So, so many. It feels like every game I did had a designated Gardner takeaway, so it makes sense that today would be no different. The longest-tenured Yankee worked a 9-pitch at-bat in the 1st inning against Odorizzi, which, even though it ended in a strikeout, was just a classic Gardner at-bat. He worked Odorizzi, he fouled pitches away, and he was just a tough out. Remember, here is the amount of pitches Brett has seen per plate appearance in each of the last 5 seasons, with his MLB rank in parentheses:
- 2019: 4.32 (5th)
- 2018: 4.24 (9th)
- 2017: 4.23 (12th)
- 2016: 4.09 (30th)
- 2015: 4.16 (11th)
Working pitchers is what Gardner does. I love it, especially in the postseason, even when the results aren’t there. Anyway, in his 2nd at-bat, it was another classic Gardner appearance: the slapped 2-out RBI knock. After a leadoff Gio Urshela double, the Yankees were on the verge of wasting it–until Gardner slapped a two-out, two-strike grounder just past the bag to knock him in and make it 2-0 Yankees. This followed the Severino Houdini act, so it was a huge hit in terms of doubling the lead but also further deflating the crowd and the Twins themselves.
He ultimately went just 1-for-4, but that was a huge day at the park for Brett Gardner in a huge game for the Yankees. What else did you expect?
3. The Yankee Bullpen Does The Damn Job: As expected, the Yankee bullpen was tasked with getting a lot of outs in a huge postseason game–that is, after all, exactly why the Yankees built the team the way they did. And it paid off not just tonight but all series. The A-Team came out and they did the damn thing.
Here are each of their lines:
- Tommy Kahnle: 0.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K
- Adam Ottavino: 0.0 IP, zeros, 1 BB
- Chad Green: 1.1 IP, 2 H, zeros, 1 K
- Zack Britton: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 1 R
- Aroldis Chapman: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 3 K
Kahnle was getting smashed all over the yard–his surrendered a leadoff blast that I thought was a sure home run, but instead, it smashed off the wall. Aaron Judge used his trademark arm and defensive prowess to hold Jake Cave to a single. He also gave up a loud liner to Gardner in center so it wasn’t Tommy Tight Pants’ finest outing, but he emerged unscathed. No harm, no foul.
But here is where things got interesting again. Boone predictably went to Adam Ottavino for right-handed power-hitter extraordinaire Nelson Cruz, and, just like in Game 1, Ottavino walked him immediately and then was pulled from the game. Not Ottavino at his best, but it is still curious managing to say the least, in my opinion. To be sure, Ottavino is vicious on righties and his slider makes him a good matchup for the fastball mashing Cruz. Here are his splits:
- Against RHB: .177/.292/.266 (.558 OPS)
- Against LHB: .241/.361/.392 (.753 OPS)
So, yeah, Ottavino is capital-v Vicious against RHB, so it makes sense to match him up against a righty masher like Cruz, but it’s weird that he’s turned into a ROOGY overnight. Ottavino is one of the best relievers in the game, but clearly the Yankees have a specific role in mind for him. Seems strange to me–why limit yourself by limiting a reliever with Ottavino’s stuff against a fastball-eating team like the Twins?–but what the hell do I know? I’ll defer to the Yankees, but I do think it’s really weird. Especially with FB-heavy Green following him. Oh well.
Speaking of Green, the Yankees really relied on him tonight and even sent him back out for the seventh, though they pulled him for Britton once he surrendered a leadoff single. I thought that was curious because of the Twins’ aforementioned fastball feasting, but the Yankees felt differently. I don’t think Green looked the best he had all year, but again, no harm no foul. Hard to complain with the results.
Britton came on after and he looked good in the seventh, though he appeared to hurt his knee at one point? FS1 showed him grimacing, and even though he came out for the 8th, he surrendered a HR (video below) and left with trainer Steve Donahue after recording a groundout. Seems…not great. He did his job, but hopefully just precautionary. (It was precautionary. He jamemd his ankle, but after the game, Britton and Brian Cashman both said he’s fine and won’t need further tests). Here’s the video of the Rosario HR:
The Britton injury — please let it just be a precautionary or minor thing, since I do think Chapman was coming in either way — sucks but Chapman, most assuredly, did not. He really brought the heat tonight. For a long time folks were worried about how Chapman would respond without regular work in September. Well, here’s the strike zone plot and velocity from his eighth inning at-bat against Miguel Sanó:
Good grief! Look at that location and look at that velocity. I do not care who you are. That is straight-up untouchable stuff right there. And I mean untouchable. 100 mph on the black? Just do yourself a favor and sit down. It’s over before you even try. (That’s a good allegory for a Yankees-Twins playoff series in and of itself.)
Chapman was a bit shaky for a second in the 9th, but he used his trademark slider (lol) to settle down and then retired Nelson Cruz looking on a blazing fastball to end the Twins season. Folks. You love–you absolutely LOVE–to see it.
4. Gleyber Torres is So, So Special: I don’t even know what else to say about Gleyber Torres. (Have you heard that he’s just 22-years-old?) I really don’t. He had that huge go-ahead double in Game 1, he had an RBI single in Game 2, and tonight he had a truly spectacular game. One of those games that makes you take a real step back and just appreciate what a special talent Gleyber really is.
Let’s start with the second inning. With the game knotted up at 0 and Odorizzi looking like he had good stuff–it was easily the best stuff any Twin has shown to that point this series–Gleyber stepped up and did this:
That was his first postseason home run, clocked at 97+ mph and traveling 370 feet. It gave the Yanks a 1-0 lead and that felt huge, at least to me. All afternoon, it felt like if the Yankees could jump out to an early lead, they’d be in great shape. Obvious statement is obvious, but you know what I mean. Gleyber made sure that happened. Love it.
Gleyber was not done, though. After Ottavino’s walk of Cruz highlighted above, things got really interesting in the fifth inning with runners on 1st and 2nd with two outs. Eddie Rosario lined a 90+ mph grounder in what looked to be the hole off Chad Green. Statcast says it is a hit more than half the time, but Gleyber (and DJLM, but there’s more on him below) had other plans. Check it out for yourself:
That sure is pretty! What a ridiculous talent Torres is, but it also feels like it is worth shouting out the Yankees’ analytics office and defensive placement, because Torres really was in the perfect position to make that play. Just truly great stuff.
Anyway, Torres was STILL not done. The Twins had consistent traffic on the basepaths all night, and the 2-0 lead felt like it could evaporate at any point–so the 22-year-old (I am going to keep saying this) phenom rocketed a double off the left-field wall that was very nearly a home run. He’d score on a one-out base hit from (who else?) Didi Gregorius, certified Twin killer. That made it 3-0. Torres was 3-for-4 with an RBI, three runs scored, a home run and two doubles on the night. He probably saved at least one more with his glove. I don’t know what else to say, so I’ll keep it simple: Gleyber Torres is special, and I sure am glad he plays for the New York Yankees. What a player. Here is a final nugget about Gleyber:
- Aaron Judge, WAR Machine: Earlier today, I wrote how Aaron Judge’s performance in the ALDS is showing just how and why he ranks among the most valuable MLB players by WAR since making his debut despite missing so many games, and spoiler: it’s not just because of his home runs. It’s also because of his ridiculous defensive prowess. In the 6th inning with a guy on second and a 2-0 NYY lead, Miguel Sanó ripped another screamer for what looked like a guaranteed double…and Statcast agreed. It was hit 107.9 mph and carried a .700 expected batting average, but Judge–who is always perfectly positioned and also huge–made a nice leaping catch to end that. Ho-hum. He also threw a rocket into second on a Jake Cave missile off the wall earlier in the game that also looked like a double, but Judge kept it a single because of course he did. He came up hitless but he still provided value. Even with Gleyber Torres on the team, make no mistake about it: Aaron Judge is the Yankees’ best player. Here is the video:
- Gary Sánchez with a Hidden Good Game: Gary Sánchez recorded his first hit of the postseason tonight with a solid base hit and also drew another walk, but I was more impressed with his defensive performance. It felt like he stopped a lot of balls in the dirt and really called a good game, but I didn’t keep track in real-time. There were a lot of things going on, but I’m pretty sure that’s true. You love to see it and it’s important to take note of this after the outsized criticism of his defense throughout his young career.
- Didi Gregorius, Certified Owner of the Twins: What can you say about Didi Gregorius? Our guy who looked terrible as recently as a week ago, has just simply owned the Twins again in a playoff series. He went 2-for-4 tonight with 2 huge RBI to give the Yankees some breathing room. Folks, you love to see it. You really do. He also made an INCREDIBLE diving catch in the ninth inning that potentially killed a Twins rally. What an incredible player and what an incredible play. His defense here is proof exactly of why you stick with a guy like Gregorius, slumping or not. To the video!
- Giancarlo Stanton With a Hit: Giancarlo Stanton got a hit! It was a blooper to center but it was a hit nonetheless, and I hope that is a portent of things to come for him. I am rooting for him like I haven’t rooted for a Yankee to succeed in the playoffs since A-Rod. Funny how that works. Anyway, Stanton was replaced in the seventh inning for defensive reasons by…
- Killa Cameron Maybin Does it Again: Defensive replacement Cameron Maybin, who has been ridiculously good whenever called upon this year, of course answered the call again tonight. It feels so appropriate that he hit a home run tonight. It’s very 2019. Here’s the video, for what it is worth:
- DJ LeMahieu, Defensive Corner Specialist: It was not a night to write home about for DJ LeMahieu offensively, but our man provides value every single night. Tonight was no exception. There was the great pick on the tremendous Gleyber play I highlighted before, but there was also another great play. On Severino’s final pitch of the night, Marwin Gonzalez hit a 100+ mph screamer of a line drive down the line, but LeMahieu’s reflexes were even quicker, as he snagged it and ended the inning. It wasn’t even surprising, but it was a hell of a play. Here’s the video:
Four full days of bliss. The Yankees will not play again until Saturday, when they’ll take on the winner of the Astros-Rays ALDS. The Rays won that game today and forced a Game 4, and tomorrow we’re all Rays fans. We’ve never said anything bad about the Rays, have we? No. I don’t think so. Force a Game 5 and then force extra innings. Make the Yankees’ eventual ALCS opponent, whoever it may be, really work for it. Sounds good to me.
Anyway, enjoy the rest of your night everyone. I’m going to get approximately five minutes of sleep before work tomorrow, but you know what? I do not care at all. Sign me the hell up for another two weeks of this. There’s never a bad day the day after a Yankee playoff win and tomorrow will be no different.