Despite the injuries and the starting-pitching concerns, the pressure is officially on.
With 103 wins and their first divisional title in seven years in hand, the New York Yankees begin their 2019 postseason campaign on Friday night in the Bronx against the Minnesota Twins.
In one of the franchise’s most memorable campaigns — winning the AL East with an onslaught of injured-list victims that amounted to over 2,000 man-games lost —expectations are still sky-high around Yankee Stadium.
And fans couldn’t be more happy with their first postseason opponent.
The Yankees have dominated the Twins in recent postseason matchups, winning five playoff encounters since 2003 by a combined margin of 13-games-to-2.
But Yankees fans should be careful what they wish for because these aren’t the same old Twins.
Minnesota went 101-61 in 2019, their highest win total since 1965 and their fourth-highest winning percentage in franchise history, which dates back to 1901 as the Washington Senators.
They set an MLB record by smashing 307 home runs this season, one more than the Yankees’ season total as a slugfest is expected to commence in the ALDS.
Can the Yankees make easy work of Minnesota as they have in the past? We’ll see:
THE LONG BALL
If you dig the long ball, this is the series for you.
These are the two most prolific home-run hitting teams in Major League Baseball history as they’ve combined for a mind-numbing 613 round-trippers in 2019.
They’re also the only teams in MLB history to hit more than 300 home runs in a season. The record before this season was 267 set by the Yankees last year — and the Twins had 40 more than that in 2019.
It just shows how much livelier the baseballs are this year.
The Twins had eight players eclipse the 20-home-run mark with five of them mashing over 30 in 2019.
The Yankees had seven players hit 20-plus and two (Gary Sanchez, Gleyber Torres) hit more than 30.
SPLITTING HAIRS IN BULLPEN
The Yankees’ bullpen has been the constant toast of Major League Baseball in 2019, and rightfully so.
This is a unit loaded with top-tier talent ranging from Adam Ottavino to Zack Britton, to closer Aroldis Chapman.
Even with the loss of All-Star Dellin Betances for the entire season and the inconsistencies of Chad Green, the Yankees bullpen was a top-10 unit in baseball.
But they’re squaring off against a Twins bullpen that has been just as solid this season. Tyler Duffey and Trevor May have provided reliable late-inning options ahead of closer Taylor Rogers, who ranked sixth in the American League with 30 saves this season.
The two units are separated by .09 points in ERA — the Yankees at 4.08 in 2019 while the Twins posted a 4.17 mark.
With two reliable bullpens pitted against each other, late-inning heroics could very well be at a minimum this series.
Game 1 @ Yankees
Oct. 4, 7 p.m.
Game 2 @ Yankees
Oct. 5, 5 p.m.
Game 3 @ Twins
FS1 or MLBN
Game 4 @ Twins (if necessary)
Game 5 @ Yankees (if necessary)
Oct. 10, TBA