What to watch for in the AL Wildcard game

Photo Credit: Nam Y. Huh/AP – Twin Cities Pioneer Press

The Minnesota Twins (85-77) will be traveling to the Bronx to take on the New York Yankees (91-71) in the first game of the MLB playoff schedule. Both teams are in the playoffs a year after missing going through major rebuilds — in fact, the Twins are the first team in MLB history to make the playoffs a year after losing 100 games.

New York is entering the game as 1.5 run favorites at home and they’ll be running out Luis Severino as the starting pitcher. Severino has been fantastic this season for the Yankees as he’s pitched 2.98/3.07/3.04 while averaging 6.1 innings per start in 2017; and he’s done that by absolutely dominating right handed hitters — righties are hitting .198/.253/.297 against him. The reason that the 23-year old has dominated righties is because he’s kept pitches away from them and away from the meat of the bat.

Severino vs. righties

Fortunately for Minnesota, there are a bunch of switch hitters on their roster that should mix things up against Severino; which is a good thing because left handed batters have been far more productive against New York’s starting pitcher than righties…but not by much — lefties are hitting  .218/.281/.387 against the righties.

The Twins lineup is led by a Miguel Sano, the powerful right handed hitter has dominated right handed pitching on the road as he’s posted a wRC+ of 148 with a slugging percentage of .590. Sano vs. Severino is going to be the deciding factor for Minnesota’s offense in Yankee Stadium…if the Twins are going to stand a chance, then their designated hitter is going to need to produce with runners on base. If Sano is unable to, then Minnesota could be in for a long night.

While Sano has destroyed right handed pitching on the road, he’s also struggled with strikeouts throughout the season (34.8% of plate appearances all season, 34.9% against righties on the road). That is good news for Severino as the righty is striking out 29.4% of batters he’s faced all season and 26.5% of righties he’s faced in the Bronx.

Update 8:01 AM: Sano is not listed in the Twins lineup for tonight’s game.

As for Minnesota, the Twins will be sending out Ervin Santana to the hill to try and tame the Yankees’ lineup. The 34-year old has been solid, but not spectacular, in his 33 starts for; Santana has averaged 6.2 innings per start while pitching 3.28/4.46/4.77 during his time on the bump. Unlike his counterpart in pinstripes, Santana has been extremely lucky this season because his opponents are posting a BABIP of .245 against him and that’s because he’s been generating a career high amount of soft contact on batted balls (22.3%). If he’s able to generate soft contact Tuesday night, like he has all season long, than Minnesota’s excellent defense should help limit the damage that the explosive Yankees’ lineup can do.

Santana will against a talented New York offense that is led by Didi Gregorius (wRC+ 107) and Aaron Judge (wRC+ 173) in their home ballpark, where Judge has been dominant offensively against right handed pitching– Judge’s wRC+ is 207. Gregorius has shredded right handed pitching this season, but he’s struggled at home against them (wRC+ of 83) so it’s likely that a large portion of New York’s run producing potential is going to come down to the rookie right fielder.

Game info

Game time: 5 PM Pacific

Location: Yankee Stadium, New York, New York

TV Broadcast: ESPN

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