New York Yankees

Yankees pitching shuts down powerful Twins lineup on way to ALDS sweep

The New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins were evenly matched on offense in the regular season, but the Yankees pitching ensured the ALDS was a one-sided affair

The New York Yankees, with one of the most powerful lineups ever assembled, eliminated the Minnesota Twins from the ALDS on Monday with a dominating performance on the mound.

New York beat the Twins 5-1 in Game 3 at Target Field to sweep the series and advance to face either the Rays or Astros in the ALCS. The Twins lost in the postseason for an MLB-record 16th straight game, 13 of those coming against the Yankees dating back to 2004. Their vaunted offense, which set a record with 307 home runs this season and scored a franchise-best 939 runs, managed just seven runs in the three games.

Game 3 was a case of missed opportunities for Twins batters. They got a runner on base in eight of the nine innings but scored only once, a solo home run by Eddie Rosario in the eighth. Yankees starter Luis Severino, in just his fourth game of the season, pitched four shutout innings and the bullpen combined for another five innings that were marred only by Rosario’s homer.

The series started off with so much promise for the Twins, who finished with their best record in 54 years at 101-61. Jorge Polanco homered in the second at-bat back in Game 1, and the offense looked like it would pick up in the postseason right where they left off in the regular season. But the lineup was held to a .218 batting average by Yankees pitching and three home runs since Polanco’s blast. Max Kepler, second on the team with 36 home runs in the regular season, was hitless in 10 at-bats. Miguel Sano had one hit in 11 at-bats, a solo homer in Game 1, while Nelson Cruz hit .200 and struck out with two runners on to end the series.

The Yankees lineup, led by Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, gets all the accolades; after all, they finished just one homer shy of the Twins for the league-lead and scored four more runs than Minnesota in the regular season. They showed up in the postseason: Gleyber Torres hit .417 and became the youngest Yankee to homer in the playoffs since Derek Jeter. Didi Gregorius hit a grand slam in Game 2 and led the club with six RBI. The Yankees scored at least five runs in every game, outhomered the Twins 5-4 and outscored them 23-7.

But it was the pitching staff that won the series for the Yankees. The bullpen has surrendered three earned runs in 13.1 innings. Starters Masahiro Tanaka and Severino combined to give up two runs over nine innings of work.

It wasn’t all good news for the Yankees in Game 3, however. Setup man Zack Britton gave up the home run to Rosario, the first he had allowed to a left-handed batter all season, before leaving the game with an injury. His departure forced Aroldis Chapman, who didn’t get more than three outs in any game this year, to come in for a five-out save.

Fortunately, Chapman might be the most well-rested closer in baseball at this time of year. He pitched in just seven games in the past month and threw 70 pitches total in September. Chapman allowed the first two runners to reach in the ninth before retiring the final three, the last out coming on a 99 m.p.h. fastball to Cruz, to end the game.

The Twins became the first 100-win team to be swept in the division series since the playoffs were expanded in 1995. It’s a disappointing end to what was a great season in the Twin Cities. For the Yankees, meanwhile, they’re moving on and ready, with both offense and defense, to take on any team that gets in the way of their 28th world championship.

Next: “Mad Max” saves the Nationals season in Game 4

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