The Yankees follow up their most wretched stretch of the 2010 season with a visit to the AL Central-leading Minnesota Twins and their beautiful new ballpark, not to mention an identical won-loss record. This will also be the last time the two teams meet this season, barring a postseason engagement.
As we all know, the Yankees took two of three from the Twins a little over a week ago, and were in position for a sweep until Jason Kubel of all people (currently sporting a .299 wOBA) hit a grand slam off Mariano Rivera. That series also included one my favorite moments of the season so far in A-Rod’s go-ahead grand slam in the Friday night game, which resulted in me being hoarse for about four straight days as a result of screaming my head off at the unfortunate Twins fans sitting in Section 331 at Yankee Stadium.
Per Yankees.com, A.J. Burnett takes on Scott Baker on Tuesday, Andy Pettitte gets Francisco Liriano on Wednesday and Javier Vazquez opposes Nick Blackburn in the finale. So the Yanks get to face the same three pitchers as they did in the last Twins series in the exact same order.
Given the Yankee rotation’s struggles of late, I honestly have no idea how this series is going to play out. Not only are the Twins a great team, but the Yankees get to deal with Justin Morneau and his Major League-leading .507 wOBA!
Of course, the rotation’s also not quite as bad as recent performances would indicate, and so perhaps this is the series where the starters get back on track — after all, the rotation actually only surrendered three earned runs to the Twins during the last three game set.
When the Yanks faced Baker back on Friday, May 14, the Yankees did what they do best against slow-pitch junkballers, which is flail away and be completely unable to score. Baker had what felt like 15 strikeouts through four innings. He ultimately unraveled in the 7th, and apparently has a 5.14 career ERA against the Yankees. Still, it feels like they historically have quite a bit of trouble hitting Baker (and his slow-pitching ilk) until a couple of passes through the lineup.
Liriano’s been struggling a bit while Pettitte is coming off his worst outing of the season, so it’s anyone’s guess as to who shows up in the Wednesday contest. Per Yankees.com, Liriano is 4-3 with a 4.04 ERA this season, and had seven strikeouts in his May 15 outing against the Yankees.
And Home Run Javy’s unexpectedly been the lone bright spot in the rotation during the team’s recent struggles. Hopefully the bruised finger he suffered while bunting last Friday won’t be detrimental, as the team really needs Vazquez to continue to turn in effective performances, especially while the other starters work out their issues. Of course, here’s some completely unsurprising news: Morneau is 14-for-40 with six home runs off Vazquez in his career. Goody.
Here are the two teams’ offensive and pitching numbers compared to the rest of the league:
True to form, the Twins throw strikes, as evidenced by their AL-leading BB/9 mark of 2.32. The staff also pitches to contact, with a low K/9 and relatively high batting average against. Somehow the Yankees’ staff — despite surrendering what has felt like 10 runs a game every game — still has a respectable ERA, although the FIP and xFIP are not great.
Though the Yanks continue to lead the league in wOBA, they sure haven’t felt like an offensive juggernaut of late. The Twins are right up there with the league leaders in all of the top offensive categories, and certainly know how to get on base.
With the Yankees reeling and the Twins featuring the best offensive player in baseball right now, this could be a tough series. I doubt either team sweeps, but even losing two of three is going to send Yankee fans into a further downward spiral. However, it’s important to remember that the Yankees get four games against the Indians this weekend (finally — it feels like the Yankees haven’t played a mediocre team all season) , and if that ain’t good for what ails ya, then I don’t know what is.
For a look at how the opposition views us, be sure to check out our friends over at Nick’s Twins Blog.
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