Head-to-head comparisons of the A.L. Central-winning Minnesota Twins and the A.L. wild card- winning New York Yankees:
Starting pitching: Twins. The Yankees’ pitching is even thinner than a year ago, when they used only three starters in the postseason. The Twins don’t shape up a whole lot better, but they’re not all in with their ace (Francisco Liriano) as the Yankees are with CC Sabathia.
Relief pitching: Yankees. Both teams have had trouble at times getting leads to their closers, but once there the Yankees have a big edge – Mariano Rivera over Matt Capps.
Hitting: Yankees. No team has scored more runs than the Yankees, true in both the second half and the season. The Twins have a dangerous lineup as well, scoring more runs per game after Justin Morneau was lost for the season. Power edge goes to Yankees.
Fielding: Twins. Minnesota has allowed the fewest unearned runs of the playoff teams. The Yankees are shaky behind the plate when it comes to slowing base stealers.
Bench: Yankees. Neither team has done much damage off the bench – the Twins’ pinch hitters batting .164, the Yankees’ .156. But New York has more experience as Morneau’s concussion issues have forced Jim Thome into the lineup.
Manager: Twins. Ron Gardenhire gets an edge over Joe Girardi, even though his teams have lost their last five playoff series. He’s as good as it gets. And he might have a clearer head than Girardi, who is weighing a possible move to the Cubs. Gardenhire doesn’t like his teams to take chances on the bases, but look for unusual aggressiveness this series.
Gut read: The Twins seemed primed to pull off upset before losing eight of their last 10. They still might as the Yankees haven’t played well lately either, going 3-8 to slide to the wild card. But New York’s history against the Twins rates a slight edge.
PICK: Yankees in five.
By Phil Rogers, Chicago Tribune