Tonight the 2017 MLB Postseason will officially kick off when the Minnesota Twins and New York Yankees battle in the Bronx. With both tonight’s AL matchup and tomorrow’s NL showdown in the desert between the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks, we figured there’d be no better time than now to give you a quick preview of both winner-take-all tilts.
AL Wild Card:
Twins (85-77) @ Yankees (91-71)
RHP Ervin Santana (16-8 3.28 ERA) vs. RHP Luis Severino (14-6 2.98 ERA)
When it comes to tonight’s game, it feels as if almost none of the national pundits are giving the poor Twins a chance. For a team that declared itself a seller at the deadline, what the Twins have accomplished this season in the last two months is nothing short of incredible. It’ll be a tall task for this group from Minnesota without a doubt, but I wouldn’t count them out altogether. Scheduled starter Ervin Santana has been phenomenal this season, making the AL All-Star team in July, tossing 211.1 innings, posting 167 Ks, a 134 ERA+, and leading the league in complete games with 5.
If Santana can go 6-7 innings, the Twins will have every chance to win this one. They bring with them a dynamic offense that boasts young studs in Byron Buxton and Max Kepler, a suddenly power hitting Eddie Rosario, and the usual reliable offensive contributions from Brian Dozier and Joe Mauer. They’ll be missing their young power hitter in Miguel Sano for sure, but I still believe the Twins have enough offense to compete with the Baby Bombers here.
For the Bombers this will be the second time they’ve hosted the Wild Card game in the Bronx, taking a loss to the Houston Astros back in 2015. That team however, was far different than the one that’ll take the field tonight. Tonight’s lineup compared to the one in 2015 is younger, faster, and stronger. The Yankees will be counting on Rookie of the Year front runner in Aaron Judge to provide more of his awesome power tonight in hopes that he’ll launch them into an ALDS meeting with the Cleveland Indians.
Behind Judge, look to see Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius, and Aaron Hicks as other notable X-factors for the Yankees tonight in terms of power, average, and defense. Offense aside, if Severino can pitch the way he has all season I see no reason for the Yankees to lose this game. The young flamethrower will likely find himself finishing in the top 5 for Cy Young voting, if not Top 3, and the Yankees will be counting on him to lead them deep enough into the game for Girardi to hand the ball off to their daunting bullpen.
Provided pitchers live up to their billing, tonight’s game will become a bullpen battle. Here is where I truly give the Yankees the advantage. If we enter the 7th inning tied, I’m way more likely to put my faith in the likes of Chapman/Betances/Kahnle/Robertson than I am the likes of Belisle/Rogers/Berrios/Pressly and it’s not really close.
Yankees 4, Twins 2
NL Wild Card:
Rockies (87-75) @ Diamondbacks (93-69)
RHP Jon Gray (10-4 3.67 ERA) vs. Zack Greinke (17-7 3.20 ERA)
This year’s NL Wild Card game features divisional foes in the Rockies and Dbacks facing off for the right to play the 103-win Los Angeles Dodgers. Surprising teams this season in their own rights, they both bring big offenses into this matchup. For the Rockies, Jon Gray will take the hill looking to lead the franchise that drafted him 3rd overall in 2013 to the NLDS. Their best starting pitcher this year, Gray represents a beckon of hope for the Rockies as a young, successful homegrown starting pitcher – something the franchise has lacked since Ubaldo Jimenez. While he only made 20 starts this season, Gray was still able to post 112 Ks in 110.1 IP, a 136 ERA+, a 3.18 FIP, and surrendered just 10 HRs.
The Rockies will be counting on their MVP contenders in Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon to bring the lumber. After those two and their gaudy offensive numbers, the Rockies have other great options up and down the lineup in Mark Reynolds, DJ LeMahieu, Carlos Gonzalez, Jonathan Lucroy, Ian Desmond, and Trevor Story. Gray, along with this loaded lineup, will try to get the game to the likes of McGee/Rusin/Neshek/Holland with a lead and punch their ticket to LA.
That takes us to the Diamondbacks. Arguably the best team in either Wild Card game, the Dbacks bring a balanced roster full of strong starting pitching, an offense that can run, hit for average, and hit for power, and a bullpen that can shut any opponent down. Their prized free agent acquisition from two winters ago, Zack Greinke will take the hill for Arizona after a resurgent season saw him return to his L.A. Dodgers form after a disappointing debut campaign in the desert.
The Dbacks also counter the Rockies with two MVP candidates in Paul Goldschmidt and J.D. Martinez. While only having joined the team in July, Martinez has been such a revelation for the Diamondbacks that there’s been talk of him being the greatest deadline acquisition in the history of the game. Surrounding these two great hitters will be dynamic outfielders David Peralta, AJ Pollock, and third baseman Jake Lamb.
When it comes to the offenses of both teams, I’m likely to call this one a push. Both hit for average, power, and can beat you in various ways. With the starting pitching I’ll take the Dbacks, as Greinke has been great this year and has the requisite experience that won’t see him wilter in the heat of those bright playoff lights. As for bullpens, I’m also taking the Dbacks here, but not by much. Outside of miserable months in April and July for Fernando Rodney, the Dbacks closer has been dominant for much of the season. Add in the emergence of a filthy Archie Bradley and I really like Arizona’s chances against anyone, much less the Rockies, if they can get the ball to Bradley/Rodney to take the 8th and 9th innings. While Holland/Neshek/McGee aren’t a trio I’d stick my nose up at, I like Bradley/Rodney just a little bit more.
Diamondbacks 5, Rockies 4