As we all prepare for tonight’s Wild Card Game against the Minnesota Twins, I spoke with Maija Varda, Managing Editor of Twinkie Town. We discussed the Twins and what to expect from the matchup.
It was never expected that the Yankees would be here this season. What about the Twins? What were expectations like heading into the season, and how has this team surprised you?
I don't think anyone, including most Twins fans, expected the Twins to be in the playoffs. At the same time, I don't think I'm as surprised as most other people are about how well the Twins have done this year. I actually predicted the Twins to make (and lose) the AL Wild Card game in 2016, which they...missed by quite a bit. But the team did well in 2015, and they have a ton of GREAT young players, so it wasn't too crazy to predict they would do well in 2017. The 2016 Twins, honestly, had a lot of bad luck. You don't lose 103 games—the most the Twins have ever lost in one season—without at least a pinch of bad luck....mixed in with a ton of awfulness, injury, and youth.
The 2017 Twins haven't so much surprised me as made me proud that they are living up to their potential.
Ervin Santana will start for the Twins. What makes him the right choice to face the Yankees in this game?
Because he's the best starter the Twins have? I don't think it's particularly the Yankees. No matter who the Twins would have faced in a one-game playoff, they'd throw Ervin Santana out there. The Twins don't exactly have a lot of really great pitching options. At least it helps that Santana did well against the Yankees a couple weeks ago, giving up only two earned runs over 5.2 innings. That's pretty good for the Twins against the Yankees!
The Twins are really going all-hands on deck with this wild card game, though. Jose Berrios—their second (maybe best?) starter—would have been lined up to pitch last Saturday, but the Twins instead opted to move him into a relief roll in case Santana falters in this Tuesday's wild card game. Berrios will be on hand.
Who is the Twins' MVP this season, and how will they come into play in the Wild Card Game?
Byron Buxton. He is going to catch everything in center field. I, myself, am still stunned by this on a daily basis.
Much was written about how Buxton struggled at the plate earlier this season. He struck out a lot. Thing is, though, the Twins never sent him down, because he was still worth more than his weight defensively. If he doesn't win a Gold Glove award I'm hurling a flaming brick of poo through someone's window.
He got hot at the plate towards the end of the season, though. I predict he'll hit a memorable triple in this wild card game.
What should the Twins' game plan be when it comes to Aaron Judge?
I think they should, um..... try to not let him hit home runs?
Not to rub this in or anything, but the Yankees have a reputation for dominating the Twins for a long time now. What's different about this game, or this year, that can turn things around?
Well, obviously this question was coming. It's true. The Twins have somehow been cursed by the Yankees, and I have my theories. The difference about this game is that the Twins are going to beat the Yankees.
Who in the Twins bullpen should Yankees fans be most worried about in this game?
Trevor Hildenberger. He's a young rookie I somehow had the fortune of interviewing a day or two before he was called up. He has a strange side-arm delivery that can be deceiving—and as if that weren't enough, he every once-in-awhile throws an overhand pitch just to extra keep the batters on their toes. His 3.21 ERA and 1.05 WHIP may not sound super impressive, but I've seen this kid do some crazy stuff and I am a fan.