While the Yankees go into this year’s ALDS against the Twins as favorites, it’s far from a sure thing that they’ll win again. Minnesota won 101 games and beat the Yankees in the race to finish with the year with the single-season home run record. The series in July at Target Field was one of the most stressful of the 2019 season. The Twins are really good.
Yet at least in some people’s minds, the Yankees come in as pretty heavy favorites. While that shouldn’t be the case, that might have a lot to do with the history the two franchises have.
When the Yankees and Twins kick off the ALDS tomorrow night, it will mark the sixth time the teams have met in the playoffs. To say that it’s been lopsided is a bit on an understatement. The Yankees have won all five meetings, and are 13-2 across all the games.
Before things get started with the current rendition of this matchup, let’s look back at those five prior playoff meetings and savor the key moments from those series.
2003 ALDS Game Two
Down 0-1 in the series, the Yankees found themselves tied with the Twins going into the seventh in game two. Twins’ Starter Brad Radke had the chance to get two quick outs against the bottom of the order before the Yankees’ big bats. Instead, he hit Nick Johnson with a pitch before a bunt moved him into scoring position.
An Alfonso Soriano single gave the Yankees the lead, and they scored three runs in total in the frame. That was enough to win game two, and Yankees’ pitching gave up just two runs combined in the last two games.
2004 ALDS Game Two
It was a similar story to start the series the next year too. Johan Santana shut out the Yankees in game one, meaning game two was basically a must win. While the Twins led 1-0 and 3-1 at points, the Yankees answered back twice to tie the game, and later opened up a two-run lead.
Tom Gordon had finished off the seventh inning and was brought back out for the eighth. He retired the first two hitters, but allowed a single to Torii Hunter, leading Joe Torre to bring in Mariano Rivera. This happened to be one of his fairly rare playoff miscues. Rivera allowed hits to the first two hitters he faced as Minnesota tied the game at five.
Rivera threw a perfect ninth, but the game would go into extras. Tanyon Sturtze came in for the 10th and threw two scoreless innings before coming back out for the 12th. Hunter hit a two-out homer off him, and the Yankees were on the verge of being down 0-2 going to the Metrodome.
Joe Nathan came in and walked two batter to bring Alex Rodriguez to the plate.
His double tied the game. More on those two later.
Hideki Matsui hit a sac fly a few batters later, evening up the series.
2004 ALDS Game Four
The Yankees won game three 8-4, but then fell behind in game four. The Twins were up 5-1 with the Yankees down to their last six outs. In the eighth, four of the first five Yankees reached base with Gary Sheffield scoring on a Bernie Williams single. The sixth hitter of the inning was Ruben Sierra, who delivered.
The game went into extras, where Rodriguez scored on a wild pitch three innings later. The Yankees were off to the ALCS, which was sadly cancelled after three games that year.
2009 ALDS Game Two
After winning game one fairly comfortably, the Yankees found themselves down two runs in the ninth in game two. The Twins brought in closer Nathan, who was an All-Star that season, and had a 2.10 ERA that season. However, Mark Teixeira got the inning off to a perfect start with a single. Enter Rodrgiuez for part two.
That sent the game to extra innings, where Teixeira walked it off after a definitely uncontroversial top of the 11th. They won the game and finished off a sweep in Minneapolis a couple days later.
2010 ALDS Game One
The following year, the teams met again in the ALDS. Despite actually finishing with a better record, the Yankees had to start the series in Minnesota due to the fact that they were the Wild Card while the Twins won the AL Central.
Going into the sixth, the Yankees trailed 3-0. They then answered with four runs, capped off by a Curtis Granderson triple to take the lead. However, in the bottom half of the inning, CC Sabathia walked in a run to tie the game.
With one out in the seventh, Nick Swisher drew a walk to bring Teixiera to the plate.
He homered to give the Yankees the lead for good in the game and the series. The Twins led for just 1.5 innings in the final two games combined as the Yankees swept them again.
2017 AL Wild Card Game
The start of this game could not have gone much worse for the Yankees. In the single elimination game, their ace and eventual third place Cy Young finisher, Luis Severino, lasted just 0.1 innings, allowing three runs on four hits, two of which were home runs. It was still early, but it looked like this might be the year the Twins get their revenge. Enter Didi Gregorius.
In the bottom half of the first inning, two of the first three Yankees reached base, bringing their shortstop to the plate. He proceeded to do this:
According to win expectancy, after the first inning the Yankees had just a 28% chance to win. Following Gregorius’ home run, it was 53%. Brett Gardner homered to give the Yankees the lead the next inning, and thanks to an incredible performance by the bullpen, especially David Roberton, they eventually won 8-4.
Hopefully, the Yankees can provide us with some more memorable moments over the next couple games.