Yankees expect Twins to be wired
Emotional play-in victory may counteract effects of fatigue
NEW YORK -- The Yankees finally know which team they'll be playing in the American League Division Series, and an epic 163rd game of the regular season gave them plenty of time to continue scouting their opponent.
Now that the Yankees know it will be Twins manager Ron Gardenhire filling out the lineup card in the visitors' clubhouse for Wednesday's Game 1, a rushed set of preparations can be made to welcome in Minnesota, a club that New York wiped clean in seven head-to-head meetings this season.
"I think our club is confident right now because of the way we've played since May," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "As far as meeting the Twins, we're not going to have to face questions like, 'Can you beat them?' like we've had to answer during the course of the year.
"Once the playoffs start, though, it's a new series and we know the importance of each game. You can pretty much throw everything else out the window."
The turnaround will be quick for the Twins, who emerged as the AL Central champions when they won Tuesday's tiebreaker game against the Tigers, 6-5, on Alexi Casilla's walk-off single in the bottom of the 12th inning at the Metrodome.
|Gm. 1||NYY 7, MIN 2||Wrap||Video|
|Gm. 2||NYY 4, MIN 3 (11)||Wrap||Video|
|Gm. 3||NYY 4, MIN 1||Wrap||Video|
Yet the Yankees, who went through the paces of a leisurely workout in the Bronx by themselves on Tuesday, didn't seem to think the advantage of a restful day would be all that great.
"I think they're going to come in here on a really high note," said setup man Phil Hughes. "They're going to have some momentum and things like that. I don't think it's really a tremendous advantage for us, just because they got to play the day before."
Catcher Jorge Posada agreed, saying, "Once you get to the playoffs, all that stuff goes away. You don't feel tired or all those things you go through in the year. ... They're going to be happy to be there and have a good team."
The only advantage, Girardi said, is that the Twins probably won't ask closer Joe Nathan to try to get more than three outs for Game 1 on Wednesday after having pitched on Tuesday. Girardi said that Wednesday's result would indicate if the Twins had been pushed into the so-called "playoff mode."
"I don't think that you can really answer that question until Wednesday, and after Wednesday's game," Girardi said. "I've been on clubs that had to play extremely hard all the way through, and we lost in the first round.
"I've also been on clubs that did not have to play hard all the way through -- for instance, the '98 Yankees -- and we ended up winning the World Series. It really comes down to how you perform. I think everyone's mind is going to be in playoff mode."
The opponent being Minnesota instead of Detroit should also impact the Yankees' final roster decisions for the ALDS.
With Girardi saying earlier Tuesday that all but two roster spots had essentially been decided, it is likely that the Yankees will now take left-handed reliever Damaso Marte over a second pinch-running option in Freddy Guzman.
"The Twins have more left-handers," Girardi said. "A second left-hander would possibly get more work against them. The one thing we talk about is we want to make sure that when we use our bullpen, we're covered if the game goes extra innings."
You might think the Yankees would have raced home to see the outcome of Tuesday's epic Twins-Tigers tiebreaker game, but in truth, most players were not interested in taking in a full contest on television after having played 162 games. Though off-days are so rare on the schedule, many vowed earlier in the day to at least keep an eye on it.
"It will be on the TV," Mark Teixeira said. "I'm going to have dinner with my family and put the kids in the bath and that kind of stuff. But the game will be on all night. I'm not sure exactly how many pitches I'll see, but if it's close to the end, I'll be glued to the TV."
"By this time, you should know who you're playing, but it is what it is," Posada said. "You try and watch it a little it and take the advantage of watching a whole game, which we don't get a chance to do during the season."
CC Sabathia, Wednesday's starter, also said that he would watch some of the game. The late notice of opponent would not affect his preparation for the start, he said.
"I pitched against both these teams a lot, being in the Central for about 7 1/2 years, seeing a lot of these guys," Sabathia said. "I'll watch the game tonight and come in and be ready and get with Posada and [video coordinator] Charlie Wonsowicz and [pitching coach] Dave [Eiland] to put together a game plan."
The Twins' victory means the Yankees will be headed to the Metrodome, a place they probably thought they were done with after a three-game sweep July 7-9. Once more, for a final time, they will have to contend with the Homer Hankies and that distracting white roof.
"I've had difficulties there," captain Derek Jeter said. "I think everybody does. Even guys who play on their team, at some point or another, have lost a ball."
Despite their regular-season success against the Twins, both in the Bronx and at the Metrodome, the Yankees know that they cannot take their first-round opponent lightly, particularly a lineup anchored by AL batting champ Joe Mauer.
"The Twins offensively have left-handed power in [Jason] Kubel and Mauer, and everything really focuses around Mauer," Girardi said. "He's so dangerous in their lineup. One thing that has happened to this club is Kubel has really matured into a dangerous hitter behind Mauer, and [Michael] Cuddyer has really stepped up in the months of September and October.
"Delmon Young has turned his season around as well. They also play small ball, and you have to be ready for that."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.