Neither the Twins nor Yankees — but especially the Twins — were expected to be playing a meaningful game in October.
The Twins are the first team ever to go from 100-plus losses one season to the playoffs in the next. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year under a new baseball operations department.
But a funny thing happened on the way to last place. The Twins exploited a weak American League (the only five teams over .500 made the playoffs) and particularly poor teams below them in the AL Central, going 34-23 against the Royals, Tigers and White Sox. They were 12-26 against the other four playoff teams, including 2-4 vs. the Yankees, which included a three-game sweep in The Bronx from Sept. 18-20.
But in the one-and-done format, even a favorite can have its playoffs last just a few hours. With the help of three scouts who saw a lot of the Twins, here is a scouting report on what to look for when they take on the Yankees on Tuesday night:
Ervin Santana is 0-5 with a 6.43 ERA in six career starts at this version of Yankee Stadium. But in his last two starts there, the veteran righty has yielded just three runs in 10²/₃ innings, including two runs in 5²/₃ innings on Sept. 18.
Santana has a good changeup, but mainly he uses his fastball to get to his key slider, which, when right, invokes swings and misses and weak contact. Hitters generally want to hit off his fastball to avoid a slider that has a tight rotation with good break and depth.
He is a bulldog. Only Chris Sale threw more innings this year, and Santana’s five complete games were more than 27 of the 29 other teams. He is not the type who will be overwhelmed by a playoff game in New York.
“He loves his slider,” Scout 1 said. “His control has been really good this year, and he has been locked in from the beginning. He doesn’t back down. He can slow the game down as good as anyone, so the moment is not going to get him. The bright…