Is sweet Minnesota relief ahead for the stumbling Yankees?

Hannah Foslien

The Yanks hope to wash the awful taste of June out of their mouths in a four-game set against a team they've dominated for the past decade. Does the past even matter though?

The Yankees had a four-game winning streak in June and outside of that, they went a horrible 7-16 last month. Even including the winning streak gave them their worst month in six years, the drudgery that was April 2007 (9-14). They ended May a game behind the Red Sox for first place in the AL East and they ended up in fourth place, six and a half games in back of Boston. At 42-39, they are closer to the last place Blue Jays (two games behind at 40-41) than even the second place Orioles (47-36). The Yankees have gone from a season-high 12 games over .500 on May 25 to just three games over entering tonight's series in Minnesota. Piss off, June.

Fortunately, July offers some promise in that the Yanks get to play seven games against the Twins, the worst team in the AL last year. The Twins haven't been quite as bad so far in 2013 at 36-42, a mark better than three other AL teams. Hell, thanks to the massive decline of the Chicago White Sox, they are not in last place in the AL Central. Nonetheless, the Yankees should not drop a series against a team that has a -28 run differential and is starting three underwhelming pitchers in this series.

The Yankees have also made a habit of beating up on the Twins since Ron Gardenhire took the reins from the retiring Tom Kelly in 2002. Their sustained success against the Twins has been remarkable since despite their recent struggles, the Twins have won six AL Central titles in the Gardenhire era. Yet against the Yankees, Gardenhire's best teams always seemed to turn to mush. The Yankees have gone 67-23 when Gardenhire's teams opposed them, an astounding .744 winning percentage that includes a 12-2 record in Division Series play. On the road at the old Metrodome and the Twins' new home at Target Field, the Yankees have gone 34-14. They have the Twins' number and everybody knows it.

That being said, is there any reason to actually care about it? The 2013 Yankees are not the 2002-12 Yankees. Their offense is not among the league's elite; it's among the league's dreck. A kid who was in Scranton a month ago is hitting fifth in their regular lineup. They have often featured possibly the worst regular in baseball since 2011 in the cleanup spot. You want Derek Jeter? You get utilityman Jayson Nix. You want Alex Rodriguez? You get rookie David Adams. You want Mark Teixeira? You get washed-up Lyle Overbay. You want Curtis Granderson? You get washed-up Vernon Wells or rookie Zoilo Almonte. Only the Astros, White Sox, and Mariners have scored fewer runs per game than the Yankees (3.83). The days of "too many damn homers" are long gone, as the Yankees have only belted 81 out of the yard, or in 2013 terms, 2.6 Chris Davises. It's a disaster.

The Twins will send lefty Scott Diamond, WBC hero Samuel Deduno, 28-year-old journeyman P.J. Walters, and highly-regarded prospect Kyle Gibson against the Yankees, who have minimal experience against these pitchers. Their hitters have never faced Walters or Gibson, and they have a combined 18 plate appearances against Diamond and Deduno, far too small of a sample size to mean anything. In theory, the Yankees' meager offense should be able to at least do something against Diamond and Walters, who have both struggled to ERA-s above 130 in 2013. Deduno has been solid in seven starts, but he had a -0.2 fWAR in 15 starts just last year, so it's tough to say which mediocre sample size is more accurate. Gibson could cause problems even though he is a rookie because he's had great numbers in the minors. However, the Yankees have pounded well-regarded young pitchers as recently as this year. It's not unrealistic to think they might do the same to Gibson.

There is no real reason to lose to Diamond or Walters. Granting a possible loss to Gibson or Deduno and maybe an embarrassing loss to Diamond or Walters, the Yankees should be able to leave Minnesota with at least a split. Anything worse would inch the Yankees even closer to .500.

Although they have all had their struggles at points in 2013, the big park in Minneapolis should guide Andy Pettitte, CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, and David Phelps to decent rebound starts against the Twins' below-average offense. All four of the Twins' pitchers are beatable, and yet the current Yankees' offense just does not inspire much hope.

These are dark times, there is no denying.

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