Yankees ready for Twins
NEW YORK — The Bronx Bombers vs. the Bomba Squad, matchup of the big league heavyweights.
Given the peerless power of the New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins, their AL Division Series seems as much bout as baseball.
“It’s cool what both our teams were able to do with the home run,” Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton said Thursday. “Big punches thrown.”
AL Central champion Minnesota set a big league record with 307 home runs and the AL East-winning Yankees were just behind at 306, both blowing by the previous mark of 267 set by New York last year. The Twins were third in the major leagues with 51.2% of their runs crossing the plate on dingers and the Yankees fourth at 51.1%, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Only Toronto (53.2%) and Milwaukee (51.5%) were more long-ball reliant.
“There have been some wonderful teams that have played throughout the course of baseball history, but we’ve never seen more home runs than we’ve seen this year between these two teams,” Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli said. “The ability to change the game with one swing — I think this is going to be a fun series in that way because the two teams that are playing probably have that quality, unlike any two teams maybe that have ever played the game.”
Nelson Cruz (41 homers), Max Kepler (36), Miguel Sano (34), Eddie Rosario (32) and Mitch Garver (31) lead the Twins Cities Thrashers, hoping to reach the League Championship Series for the first time since 2002.
Gleyber Torres (38), Gary Sanchez (34), Brett Gardner (28), Aaron Judge (27) and DJ LeMahieu (26) top the Yankees, still smarting from losses to Boston in last year’s Division Series and Houston in the 2017 ALCS.
In a season with a record 6,776 homers, the playoffs already have been high voltage. Batters went deep on the seventh pitch of the NL wild-card game and the fifth of the AL matchup.
Now, the Twins and Yankees are ready to tee off in Game 1 tonight.
“I feel like there’s so many shifts and so many different things going on in the game, why would I want to put the ball on the ground for the most part? Ninety-nine percent of the time it’s on the ground, it’s an out,” Judge said. “I’ve got three strikes. Why not take three chances to get one out of the park?”
New York beat Minnesota in the 2003, 2004, 2009 and 2010 Division Series, then in the 2017 wild-card game after falling behind 3-0. The Yankees are 100-37 vs. the Twins since 2002, including 13-2 in the playoffs.
Cruz, styling in a shiny Phillip Plein skull and lightning bolt T-shirt, pointed out these Twins have high octane bats that make a difference: hence the Bomba Squad nickname coined by Rosario.