The Yankees and the Twins, a pair of 100-win teams, squared off in the ALDS for what was supposed to be a great series. It was a great series, from a Yankee perspective, at least. The Yankees swept the Twins, outscoring them 23-7 in three games, yet there were still some crucial plays that led to the Yankees eventual domination. Here’s a look at the critical moments that had the biggest impact on these three Yankee wins, the memories that are most likely to stay burned in our brains when we look back on this series in future.
In order to come up with the moments that objectively did the most to swing the outcomes, I employed FanGraphs’ win probability models, and used their WPA (Win Probability Added) tool to figure out which specific moments had the biggest impact on their wins. Let’s begin with Game One.
To start, FanGraphs evaluated Edwin Encarnacion’s double in the bottom of the third inning at .133 WPA, as it increased the Yankees’ chances of winning from 41.2% to 54.4%. This was the first run the Yankees scored in the postseason, and it cut the Twins’ lead in half after Minnesota jumped out to an early 2-0 lead.
The other huge moment in Game One was Gleyber Torres’ fifth-inning, two-run double down the right-field line that skipped past Twins’ third baseman, Miguel Sano. The game was tied 3-3 at this point and gave the Yankees a 5-3 lead. The WPA on Torres’ double was .175, the biggest swing of the game. The Yankees had gone to the bullpen in the top half of the fifth, so giving this lead to that great relief corps put the Yankees in an excellent position to win.
Now on to Game Two. Don’t worry, you don’t have to put your thinking cap on for this one. There is no need to waste time explaining why it was important. Didi Gregorius’s grand slam in the bottom of the third sent Yankee stadium into a frenzy and raised their chances of winning to 96.9%. Let’s take a look back at this monster blast; Didi didn’t even know what to do with the bat.
Finally, let’s take a look at the series-clinching win in Game Three. Gleyber Torres got the Yankees going right from the start, hitting a solo home run in the top of the second inning, and boosting their chances of winning by 10%. That early dinger, the first of what will presumably be many postseason homers for Torres, put the Yankees on the board and proved to be the biggest play of the whole game in terms of win probability.
It felt like the Twins never had a chance in this series, and according to FanGraphs, they never really did. The highest Win Expectancy they had in any game in this series was 67.1%, and that was on Nelson Cruz’s solo home run in the top of the third inning of Game One that gave them a 1-0 lead. We all know how that game ended.
The Yankees outplayed a 100-win team from start to finish. They didn’t quite lead wire-to-wire, but the series’ ultimate result rarely seemed to be in doubt. These plays ensured the Yankees were in a good position throughout.