“Nobody’s really talked about it yet, so I don’t think I can answer that one,” Rogers said.
But let us talk about the Yankees.
The Twins have gone 15-6 in the month of September and are winners of four straight heading into their final regular-season series against the Cincinnati Reds starting Friday at Target Field. A half-game up on Chicago in the American League Central, the Twins will accomplish all goals if they win out: defend division title, clinch home-field advantage and, maybe, avoid the Yankees.
Who knows how the Twins feel about facing the team that has knocked them out of five of their past six postseason appearances? If they’re even thinking about it, they won’t tell us until they have to, and if they win their next three games, they might never have to.
That would be ideal.
While finally slaying the Evil Empire in a playoff series would be a great story and a welcome flex of mid-market muscle for the Twins and their fans, it would require rehashing the dreary history of the Twins’ postseason baseball since 2002, when they beat the Oakland A’s in the division series.
Of course, that will be a story regardless of opponent, but playing the Yankees would make it personal. The Twins are winless in their past 13 playoff games, but they’re 1-16 against New York since winning the opener of the 2003 division series at Yankee Stadium.
Currently the No. 3 seed in the eight-team AL playoff field, the Twins are in line to meet Cleveland, a team they’re accustomed to beating. If the Twins fall back into that No. 4 seed and get the Yankees — even for three games at Target Field — every second question from the media and post on social media will be about why the Twins can’t beat New York.
Will it be fair? In one sense, no. The Twins have been a better team this season, and although they have not tortured pitching the way they did on the way to 101 wins last season, they are a better team in 2020. Their best pitcher, Kenta Maeda, was acquired in a trade on Feb. 10, and free-agent signee Josh Donaldson is a former AL MVP who delivers professional at-bats, can run and is a much better third baseman than Miguel Sano.
Further, the Twins add Michael Pineda and Byron Buxton. Pineda was the Twins’ best starting pitcher after the all-star break last season but was benched by a 60-game suspension after testing positive for a banned diuretic last September. Also missing the playoffs was Buxton, sidelined by shoulder surgery.
Healthy and fresh, Buxton has 13 home runs, 27 RBIs and 19 runs scored in 38 games. Manager Rocco Baldelli called him an MVP candidate on Wednesday and he’s not wrong. Confident and fearless to a fault, Buxton is headed toward his first real postseason series after shoulder surgery derailed his 2019 season.
The Twins aren’t slugging on their MLB-record pace of 307 home runs set in 2019, but they’re more balanced. Over the past two weeks, they have beaten three of the best pitchers in baseball: Cleveland’s Shane Bieber, Lucas Giolito of the White Sox and the Chicago Cubs’ Yu Darvish.
It’s hard not to like the Twins’ chances in the postseason, at least to finally win their first series since 2002. But whoever their opponent is for their three-game, first-round series will be challenge enough; they don’t need to add history to their plate.
The Yankees always bring their reputation as the richest, winningest team in baseball; adding a personal losing skid? Well, best to avoid the prospect altogether.