Win or lose on Tuesday night the Yankees have a future that all but a couple of the other 29 teams in baseball would gladly take over their own, but let’s not pretend as if this is some type of house-money game.
The format makes it as dicey as it is nerve-wracking: being the better team guarantees nothing when it’s one game with the season on the line, and yet it would be a huge disappointment if the Yankees can’t find a way to beat the Twins.
There are plenty of tangible reasons for that, which I’ll get to, but none as compelling as my sense that if they do move on they could turn this into a memorable October, playing at a level in September that makes them capable of beating the mighty Indians, and then, well, who knows.
When I ran that idea by a scout for one of the other playoff teams who was assigned to the Yankees in recent weeks, he agreed — to a point.
“I don’t know if anybody can beat (Corey) Kluber the way he’s pitching,” the scout said, “but other than that, I see the Yankees being as dangerous as anybody right now, especially with (Aaron) Judge doing damage. You can see they’re playing with a lot of confidence — they seem to feed off Judge, now that he’s hot again.
“And they have more strikeout-relievers in that bullpen than anybody, even Cleveland, and as we’ve seen, that plays in the postseason. So it’s kind of a cliché, but the Yankees are a team you don’t want to play right now.”
In short, these are no longer the upstart Yankees for whom there were low expectations when the season began. They won 91 games and could have — maybe should have — won more if two of the most dominant relievers in the game, Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances, hadn’t each gone haywire for too-long stretches of the season.
They also went 20-8 in September, raising their level when every game felt vital as they chased the Red Sox all the way to the second-to-last day of the…