Hi all. Here’s how I see baseball on this Sunday, Oct. 6. The Yankees took a lead of 2 games to None on the Twins with an 8–2 win yesterday following a 10–4 win Friday night. However, this isn’t the time to celebrate. They did that in 1995 and paid the full price for their overconfidence.
The expression “history repeats itself” is overused, but there’s a reason why. It does, in so many words. 4 times American presidents have been assassinated. The second, third and fourth were because nobody seemed to realize that killing a president wouldn’t accomplish anything. World War II ravaged the globe because the survivors of World War I didn’t learn the lessons they might have from that calamity. Baseball teams have the opportunity to learn from past mistakes. Some do, some don’t.
There might be an argument that this Yankee team has done more winning recently than the 1995 team. That team had gone nowhere since losing the World Series of 1981. They could have blitzed the baseball world in 1994, had the infamous strike not cancelled that season and clouded much of the season that followed. When the Yankees took a 2 games to None lead over the Mariners, they had won 2 battles. The second game in particular, a 7–5 win in 15 innings should have crushed the soul of the Mariners.
Two critical differences exist between 1995 and now. 24 years ago, after winning the first 2 games at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees had to try to win the series at Seattle’s Kingdome. Winning in that building was never easy for the Yankees. Now, if the Twins pull themselves off the deck and win the next 2 games, game 5 would be played back in the Bronx. The other critical difference is, the Mariners had Randy Johnson. Washington’s Max Scherzer is the closest thing we have to Randy Johnson in the modern era, though I haven’t heard the words “scary” or “intimidating” used to describe him. Either of those words applied very well to Randy Johnson, along with “menacing,” and probably other words and expressions players use in the dugout that you don’t see in a family blog. Johnson beat the Yankees in game 3, and after the Mariners won game 4, he came in to become the winning pitcher in game 5. No Yankee or Twin brings the same cache. James Paxton, the Yankee lefty who won game 1 is an excellent pitcher and may be better than anything the Twins have to offer. He left game 1 early enough that he could start game 5 if needed or come in for a save in game 4 if it meant locking the series down. Masahiro Tanaka found another gear yesterday with the Yankees blowing the game open early on. Tanaka could start game 5 if somehow Paxton was tapped to start game 4. The one definite is that Luis Severino will start tomorrow in game 3, the first game in Minneapolis in this series.
While the Yankees can’t count their chickens, the Twins aren’t in an enviable position. Their best pitcher, Jose Berrios was beaten Friday night. Then their manager, Rocco Baldelli made what I believe was a tactical error last night. Instead of an experienced gun like Kyle Gibson, he turned to Randy Dobnak, a youth with only 6 weeks’ experience in the major leagues. In Hollywood, the kid who made his living driving for Uber and Lyft (which Dobnak did this past winter) would have crawled out of the woodwork and pitched a no-hitter. In reality, Dobnak hadn’t a clue what he was walking into. The Yankees last faced the Twins in July while Dobnak was still in the minors. The luckless Pennsylvanian found himself on the mound at Yankee Stadium in October facing an October Yankee Stadium crowd. Any noise the crowd can make in the Bronx seems to multiply in October. Before 2008, the crowd noise could rock the foundations of the House that Ruth Built. While that doesn’t happen at Yankee Stadium Lite as I think of it, they still made more than enough noise to rattle Dobnak’s cage. The former uber driver saw the Yankee offense get out of the starting gate in the home half of the first. DJ Lemahieu opened up with a booming double. After a walk to Aaron Judge, the ageless Edwin Encarnacion singled the first run home. The ride got seriously bumpy in the home third, thanks to the same cast of characters. This time, Aaron Judge singled, Gardner walked and Encarnacion singled, filling the bases. With the score 1–0, Dobnak’s ride was over. His replacement, Tyler Duffy did him no favors. Giancarlo Stanton hit a scoring fly ball, after which Gleyber Torres singled a run home and Gary Sanchez was hit by a pitch, reloading the bases. That set up the turning point of the game when Didi Gregorius launched a grand slam. Duffy was gone a few batters later and the Yankees had the win.
Today is a travel day for the American League teams. Houston has a similar lead of 2 games to None on the Tampa Bay Rays. The Twins plan to send Jake Odorizzi against the Yankees. If the Yankees keep their wits, they should have the Twins on the ropes and not let them get away as the 1995 Mariners did. With nobody as frightening as Randy Johnson waiting in the wings, the worst foe the Yankees might have to face is the Minnesota weather. Other than Colorado, nobody has a worse climate for the playoffs than Minnesota, and they no longer have an enclosed stadium. That could quiet both offenses, each of which hit over 300 home runs in the regular season. After the two NL playoffs today, the Yankees and Twins drew an early afternoon start for tomorrow’s game.0