10/03/2004 8:53 PM ET
Twins eager to face Yankees
Team hoping pitching staff offers edge over New York
By Mark Schneider / MLB.com
|Johan Santana, 13-0 with a 1.21 ERA since the All-Star break, anchors the Minnesota rotation, followed by Brad Radke and Jose Silva. (Mark Duncan/AP)
MINNEAPOLIS -- At long last, the Twins can start spreadin' the news.
It took until the final out of their regular season, but the Twins finally know they will play the Yankees in the American League Division Series starting Tuesday at New York.
They have always known what the Yankees are capable of in the postseason.
"They definitely have the mystique about them," Twins reliever Jesse Crain said. "I think it will be a good series. If we do what we can do, we'll be fine."
On the season, the Twins finished with a 2-4 record against New York. They took two of three games from the Yankees at the Metrodome in August, but suffered a three-game sweep at Yankee Stadium this past week.
Despite losing the three games on the road, the experience still served as a crucial learning experience for some of the younger Twins.
"It was nice for us to actually see the atmosphere, especially for the guys who have never been there before," said the 23-year-old Crain. "Obviously there will be a little more hype around because of the playoffs, but at least we got a feel for it."
The postseason series provides a rematch of last year's ALDS, when the Yankees eliminated the Twins three games to one. Minnesota wants redemption, beginning with its Game 1 starter, Johan Santana.
Santana pitched Games 1 and 4 in the ALDS in 2003 and didn't make it beyond the fourth inning either time. He finished with a 7.04 ERA in the series and is looking for a much different result this time around.
"It's very special for me to go back out there and get a Game 1," Santana said. " Hopefully I'll do better than how I did last year -- not just for me, but for the whole team.
"I'm not going to change anything. This is a different year, a different team, and we're ready. That's all I know."
Santana's opponent in Game 1, which will begin at 7 p.m. CT and air on FOX, is Mike Mussina, a noted Twins killer. In his career, Mussina has gone 20-3 with a 2.96 ERA against Minnesota.
The Twins say they are not going to be intimated by him -- or any other member of the Yankees team -- this time around. Admittedly, New York had a mental edge over them last year.
"I think we went into New York and didn't really know what to expect," Twins outfielder Torii Hunter said. "We knew that those guys are pretty good and I think that was in the back of our heads.
"This year, they beat us already, so we have something to prove. We want to prove to those guys that we're not the same ballclub."
One thing that is different about the Twins this season is their pitching staff. With Santana at the top of the rotation in Cy Young form -- he is 13-0 with a 1.21 ERA since the All-Star break -- and the always-reliable Brad Radke in the No. 2 spot, Minnesota believes it has a stronger staff than the Yankees.
"They don't have the same pitching," Hunter noted. "With (Roger) Clemens and (Andy) Pettite gone, I'll take my chances."
Game 2, which will begin at 6 p.m. CT on Wednesday and air on ESPN, features Radke against Yankees right-hander Jon Lieber. Lieber, who won his one start against the Twins this year, finished the regular season 14-8 with a 4.33 ERA.
The Yankees have not determined their starter for Game 3, which will take place on Thursday at 7 p.m. CT and will be broadcast on ESPN. As for the Twins, they know they will go with first-year starter Carlos Silva, who has pitched well down the stretch. In September, Silva went 4-0 in five starts with a 1.72 ERA.
The Twins' trio of Santana, Radke and Silva will look to shut down a high-powered New York offense that finished second in the A.L. in runs scored. Minnesota is well aware of the challenge the Yankees present with their vast playoff experience and potent lineup.
But the Twins aren't afraid of the challenge. Not this year.
"One through nine they have great hitters," Corey Koskie said. "I'll put up our pitching against their hitters and let's see what happens. We're anxious to get this thing going."
Mark Schneider is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.