Tag Archives: Brian Dozier

NL East Division position comparison: second base

Over the next two weeks, I will be examining the rosters of each team in the National League East Division and breaking them down with a position-by-position comparison and ranking. One position each day will be covered, a process that began with Tuesday’s evaluation of the first basemen.

Today the series continues with a look at the division’s second basemen. I’ll continue working around the infield, then behind the plate, and across the outfield. That will be followed by a piece covering each projected starting pitching rotation as a whole, separate pieces on each team’s bench and bullpen, and finally on the managers.

If it appears as though any particular position is unsettled or that a team may use a platoon situation, any potential starting players will be covered.

Once the process is complete you should have a good picture of where the Phillies, or whichever club is your personal favorite, stands entering spring training.

NL EAST – 2020 SECOND BASE RANKINGS

1) Ozzie Albies, Atlanta Braves: Still just 23 years of age in the 2020 season, Albies is sure to be at or near the top of this divisional positional ranking for many years to come. One of the game’s most dynamic young players, Albies slashed .295/.352/.500 a year ago with 24 homers, 43 doubles, 75 extra-base hits, 86 RBIs, 102 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases. He was a 2018 NL All-Star and won a Silver Slugger Award in 2019 for what was his second full big-league season. The Braves also smartly tied him up with a long-term, team-friendly contract that pays Albies just $30 million total dollars through his age 28 campaign in 2025 and then includes a pair of team-option seasons at just $7 million each year.

2) Nationals depth: The Nats signed veteran Brian Dozier for one year in 2019 and he delivered 20 homers over 135 games. However, his below-average all-around offensive and defensive game relegated Dozier to the bench for much of their World Series-winning postseason run and he was not re-signed for 2020. As of this point, the Nationals are planning to go with a mix of NLCS MVP Howie Kendrick and fellow veterans Starlin Castro and Asdrubal Cabrera at the position. Castro, who turns 30 as spring training ends, hit .270 with 22 homers, 31 doubles, and 86 RBIs in Miami a year ago and is a three-time NL All-Star. He could prove to be a nice addition on the two-year, $12 million free agent contract signed in early January.

3) Phillies depth: Will it be Jean Segura or (finally) Scott Kingery getting most of the play in the 2020 season at the Keystone position down at Citizens Bank Park? The club also signed veteran Josh Harrison to provide further depth. All three can play all around the infield, but at this point it appears that the club will at least head to spring training with Segura at second, Kingery at third, and Harrison as a reserve infielder. Segura has been working out hard and already doing some preliminary work down in the Dominican Republic in anticipation of the switch from shortstop to second base. In fact, his 2016 season in Arizona has been the only one of Segura’s eight-year MLB career in which he has played the position. But he received MVP votes that year in what was in many ways his best all-around season, so this could prove a great move.

4) Jonathan Villar, Miami Marlins: The Fish traded with the Orioles to bring in the seven-year veteran Villar this off-season and he is likely to be the primary starter at second base in 2020. Villar had a good season last year in Baltimore, hitting .274 with 24 homers, 62 extra-base hits, 73 RBIs, 111 runs scored, and 40 stolen bases. Owed $8.2 million for just one more season, Villar will be playing for a free agent deal with some club after the 2020 campaign. This is a young organization looking to build through an improving farm system. He could prove to be a steal for Miami as a stopgap at the position. Isan Diaz, who turns 24 in May, was the starter as a rookie during August and September of last season and will be looking for another opportunity at some point.

5) Robinson Cano, New York Mets: Now age 37, this is not the Robbie Cano who helped beat the Phillies in the 2009 World Series as a member of the New York Yankees. That Robbie Cano was a an eight-time AL All-Star during nine seasons in the Bronx and another five years in Seattle. The Mets obtained him along with closer Edwin Diaz in a December 2018 trade with the Mariners for a five-player package that included outstanding prospect Jarred Kelenic and current Phillies outfielder Jay Bruce. Cano then went out and showed his age, slashing just .256/.307/.428 with 13 homers, 39 RBIs, and 46 runs scored in 107 games. To compound the problem, New York owes him $96 million in an albatross of a deal that runs through 2023, when he will be 40-years-old. It’s going to be a long four years under the weight of that contract. Jeff McNeil is an outstanding hitter who will play the position at times, but the Mets used him at three different spots a year ago, just 37 times at second base. Jed Lowrie will turn 36 in April. He signed a two-year, $20 million free agent deal with the Mets a year ago at this time, sprained his knee, and ended up playing in just nine games.

 

MORE RECENT PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES CONTENT:

Dwindling free agent pool still includes players to help Phillies

When the off-season began for the ball clubs of Major League Baseball it was my belief that we were in store for a second straight winter of city tours.

At the very least, super agent Scott Boras was going to take the top pitcher, Gerrit Cole, and the top hitter, Anthony Rendon, around the country to a handful of cities for team visits in a repeat of what happened a year ago with Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.

As we now know, it never happened. This time around, the vast majority of free agents had a good idea where they wanted to play. Negotiations went down fast, with few team visits at all.

The Phillies got involved, as was anticipated. General manager Matt Klentak was able to land two new pieces in shortstop Didi Gregorius and the starting pitcher that everyone knew they needed in Zack Wheeler.

But even with those two additions, the Phillies appear to need a little more. They play in a tough division that includes a two-time defending champion in Atlanta, the defending world champions in Washington, and an improved New York Mets club. All three of those teams finished ahead of the Phillies in 2019.

It appears that Klentak is ready to hold third base for top prospect Alec Bohm, plugging in super-utility guy Scott Kingery for a few weeks until Bohm is deemed fully ready. And it looks as if Klentak wants to see what former first round pick Adam Haseley can do with an everyday opportunity in center field.

If those things are absolutely true, then the Phillies would not be shopping around for any more starting caliber position players. But they still have needs in the bullpen and on the bench, and another starting pitcher, preferably a left-handed veteran, couldn’t hurt.

So, considering those as the Phillies needs and knowing that the free agent market has seriously dried up, are there any players remaining available who could help the club, and who Klentak might actually still consider inking to a deal?

Earlier this week, Hall of Fame scribe Jayson Stark put out what he considered to be an All-Unemployed Team, with each of the players still out there as available free agents:

And just yesterday, former big-league general manager Jim Bowden published a piece for The Athletic on the top remaining free agents. He listed the Phillies as a “best fit” for two of those, third baseman Josh Donaldson and relief pitcher Will Harris.

Donaldson would appear to be a longshot at best. In fact, there is a very real possibility that the slugger will be manning the hot corner and hitting in the middle of the lineup for an NL East rival once again next year. Both the Braves, with whom he played in 2019 on a one-year contract, and the Nationals are considered the front-runners to land the services of the veteran.

Harris is an intriguing possibility. The 35-year-old right-hander is a veteran of eight big-league campaigns. He was a 2016 All-Star, won a World Series ring with the Houston Astros back in 2017, and has been one of baseball’s top relievers over his last five seasons spent in a Houston uniform.

This past year, Harris allowed just 42 hits over 60 innings with 62 strikeouts across 68 appearances. He also has 23 games of postseason experience on his resume.

Other free agents also still remain who at least fit the mold of what the Phillies could use. They include veteran left starters Drew Smyly and Alex Wood and relievers Steve Cishek, Daniel Hudson, Brandon Kintzler, and Hector Rondon.

For bench bats there are players such as Starlin Castro, Brian Dozier, and Ben Zobrist. If the Phillies do consider a move on a position player who could start, center fielder Kevin Pillar might prove to be a nice fit.

At this stage it would appear that shoring up the pitching staff with a veteran back-end starter and at least one veteran bullpen arm are the best bets for possible additions.

However Klentak chooses to fill in his roster over the balance of the off-season, as the calendar flips to 2020 there remain players out there on the market who could help the Phillies in the season to come.  Those names may not be sexy, but every contending team needs key contributing-level players as well.

 

MORE RECENT PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES CONTENT:

Pair of late home runs push Nationals past Phillies

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Victor Robles late homer helped the Nats rally to victory

The Washington Nationals (14 – 18) came from behind with a big 8th inning rally to defeat the Philadelphia Phillies (18 – 14) by 10-8 on Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park.

With the defeat, the Phillies lead in the National League East Division standings dropped to two games in the loss column.
Prior to the game, the Phillies honored the franchise all-time Hit King, Jimmy Rollins, on the occasion of his formal retirement from Major League Baseball.
The ceremony included JRoll’s family, his two managers with the club in Larry Bowa and Charlie Manuel and a number of former teammates including Bobby AbreuWayne GomesMarlon Anderson and Shane Victorino.
As the game got underway, the Nationals broke on top first, getting to Phillies starter Jake Arrieta for three hits and a run in the top of the 1st inning. Arrieta avoided some trouble with the help of a nice 6-4-3 doubleplay.
In the bottom of the 1st, the Phillies got even. Jean Segura lined a one-out base hit to left field. That was followed by a Bryce Harper double ripped to the wall in left-center. Then J.T. Realmuto lifted a short fly to right field. Segura tug and raced home, sliding in safely as the throw home got away from Nationals catcher Yan Gomes.
The Phillies grabbed a lead in the bottom of the 2nd inning when Segura drilled a double to center field, scoring Sean Rodriguez to make it a 2-1 game. Arrieta struck out the first two in the top of the 3rd inning, but then Brian Dozier crushed a no-doubt solo home run to left field, tying the game up at 2-2.
Washington first baseman Matt Adams had to leave the game due to a jammed shoulder suffered when he made a nice diving play and raced back to the bag to rob Phil Gosselin of a hit. Adams was replaced defensively by former Phillies player Howie Kendrick moving from third to first base, and Wilmer Difo entering the game at third.
The Phillies regained the lead when Gosselin singled, move to second on a sac bunt by Arrieta, and scored on a double by Andrew McCutchen. But once again the lead didn’t last long. In the top of the 5th, Victor Robles singled, went to second when Arrieta threw away a pickoff attempt, moved to third on a ground out, and scored on a sac fly by Adam Eaton.
In the bottom of the 6th inning, the Phillies put two men in scoring position with one out. Corbin powered his way out of trouble, striking out Cesar Hernandez as a pinch-hitter for Arrieta and then McCutchen on a nice 2-2 slider. That would be it for Corbin, but he had managed to keep his team in it on an unusually rough night, leaving with the game still knotted at 3-3.
The Nats jumped on top in the 7th against Phillies reliever Juan Nicasio, who imploded to surrender two hits and made a key throwing error, resulting in a pair of Washington runs.
With the Nationals up by 5-3, manager Dave Martinez went to his bullpen for Joe Ross. The Phillies would make him regret that decision. Segura started the inning with an infield hit, which was followed by a walk to Harper. Rhys Hoskins then doubled to left, scoring Segura, with Harper moving to third.
Realmuto then crushed a double to right-center, and as the ball one-hopped off the wall both Harper and Hoskins scored to put the Phillies back on top. One out later, Rodriguez ripped a double to almost the exact same spot, scoring Realmuto. That was followed by Gosselin ripping a double down the third base line, and suddenly the Phillies had scored five runs and had built an 8-5 lead.
Pat Neshek came on for the 8th inning and yielded a pair of hits. With runners on the corners and two outs, Phillies skipper Gabe Kapler decided to turn to lefty reliever Adam Morgan, who had a franchise-record 16 consecutive scoreless appearances entering this game.
It seemed like a great idea, but it just didn’t work out. Pinch-hitter Kurt Suzuki stepped in against Morgan and blasted a three-run homer to tie the game. Robles then came up and took Morgan out to right field on the very next pitch. Just like that, the Nationals had a taken 9-8 lead.
The Nationals then built on to their lead in the top of the 9th, moving out to a 10-8 lead, and the Phillies were lucky it wasn’t any worse. In the bottom of the 9th, closer Sean Doolittle came on to nail it down for the visitors. He allowed a one-out base hit to Franco followed by a walk to Rodriguez. But Doolittle responded by getting a pair of pinch-hitters to pop out, Andrew Knapp to center and Odubel Herrera to third base foul territory.

SHIBE VINTAGE SPORTS STARTING PITCHING PERFORMANCE

  • Jake Arrieta: 6 IP, 5 hits, 3 runs / 2 earned, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts. Threw 89 pitches, 59 for strikes.
  • Patrick Corbin: 6 IP, 6 hits, 3 earned runs, 3 walks, 6 strikeouts. Threw 118 pitches, 74 for strikes.

PHILLIES NUGGETS PLAYER OF THE GAME: VICTOR ROBLES

Robles didn’t even start this game, coming on only due to an injury to Michael Taylor. But Robles would go 2-2, and it was his solo home run just over the wall in right-center field that gave the Nationals their 9-8 lead in the top of the 8th inning. Honorable mention to Suzuki for his game-tying three-run blast.

NEXT GAME

  • Sunday May 5 at 2:05 pm vs the Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park
  • This game is designated as the “Herr’s Mother’s Appreciation Day” game
  • TV: NBC Sports Philadelphia
  • Radio: SportsRadio 94 WIP, WTTM 1680 (Spanish)
  • After this the Phillies will go on the road for six in the Midwest: 3 in Saint Louis, 3 in Kansas City

It’s past time for the Phillies to move on from Cesar Hernandez at second base

By Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA - Cesar Hernandez, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41010340
Cesar Hernandez during 2018 season
(Photo by Keith Allison via Wiki Commons)
If you want to go ahead and say that this has been a roller coaster of a season for Phillies second baseman Cesar Hernandez then you would be on a really exaggerated summer coaster ride.
What this season has demonstrated as well as any in recent memory is exactly what I was saying about him before it even began – it’s time for him to go.
Hernandez has some of the most empty and inconsequential offensive statistics in the game, his defense is nothing special, and at age 29 next season he should not be considered a piece for a future contending Phillies ball club.
This season began with Hernandez hot. Over the Phillies first 43 games through May 19 he was slashing .282/.392/.448 with six homers, 15 RBI, 34 runs scored and nine stolen bases. That would represent the roller coaster upward climb.
Then on May 20, Hernandez wrapped up a road trip in Saint Louis by going 0-3. It was the start of that roller coaster drop-off. And unlike most roller coasters, this one would not be over quick, nor would it lead to a series of thrilling ups and downs.
From that May 20 game through nearly the entirety of summer, Hernandez’ performance would plummet through a prolonged, nauseating, lineup defeating drop.
Across 93 games through September 3, Hernandez hit just .237 with a .309 slugging percentage. Over more than twice the number of plate appearances as in his quick start he hit one fewer home run and stole one fewer base.
It’s not as if Hernandez has been playing outstanding defense. His 1,217.2 innings played is the third-most of anyone at second base in all of Major League Baseball this year. According to Fangraphs he ranks just 12th on their Advanced Defensive Index and 13th in Defensive WAR at the Keystone.
And still, manager Gabe Kapler kept writing his name into the starting lineup. Hernandez has started 138 of the Phillies 146 games through Friday night.
Hernandez made $5.1 million this season and will be arbitration-eligible this coming off-season. He will most certainly be looking for a raise, possibly to the $10+ million per year mark. He cannot become a free agent until after the 2020 season.

There will be a bevy of free agent second basemen or players who could be used at the position who will be hitting the market this winter. The list includes potentially enticing names like Brian DozierDJ LeMahieuJed LowrieDaniel MurphyIan Kinsler, and Asdrubal Cabrera. But each has already reached age 30, and all will be hoping for expensive contracts at multiple years of commitment.
With two years remaining until his own free agency, and with those years coming in his ages 29 and 30 seasons, it is entirely possible that Phillies GM Matt Klentak could convince some contending general manager to give up a young prospect with reasonable upside in a trade for Hernandez.
Corey Seidman for NBC Sports Philadelphia speculated earlier this month on a possible return for Hernandez:

“At this point, the Phillies won’t be able to find great value for Hernandez. But they should be able to land a reliever coming off a good year from a team in need of a second baseman.”

The Phillies have their future at the position already in-house. Scott Kingery won a minor league Gold Glove at second base just last year when he hit .304 with 26 homers, 29 doubles, 29 steals, and 103 runs scored with the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs.

It’s time for the Phillies to commit and turn second base over to Kingery. (Photo by: Lauren McLaughlin)
Yes, Kingery struggled during his rookie season this year in Major League Baseball. The 24-year-old has slashed just .227/.268/335 with seven homers, 33 RBI, 10 steals, and 51 runs scored over 448 plate appearances across 134 games.
However, this was Kingery’s first taste of big-league life, and it arguably came under extreme duress. After playing just two minor league games at shortstop, Kingery was asked to become the Phillies starter at that vital position for much of this season.
Kapler has started him 90 times at shortstop and played him in 106 total games there. Meanwhile, Kingery has seen action in just four games at his natural second base position, with only two starts. He hasn’t gotten a start there since April 16 and has not played the position at all in the last three months.
As I described in a piece earlier this month, Kingery has been mishandled this year by the Phillies. I believe grossly so. As I wrote in that piece: “Put him at second base, and he will thrive. His record tells the tale. The proof is in the pudding. Pac-12 Player of the Year. Paul Owens Award winner. Minor league All-Star and Gold Glove Award winner.
I also believe that with a full year of MLB experience under his belt, and with the increased comfort level that would come in returning to his natural position, that Kingery will begin to thrive offensively next season.
During spring training back in March the Phillies signed Kingery to a six-year contract. It gave him more guaranteed money than any drafted player who had never played in MLB in the game’s history. They were presumably showing some level of commitment to Kingery and a belief in his abilities.

In the last 10 days, Hernandez has again heated up somewhat. Over nine games during that time he has hit .343 with a .415 on-base percentage. But it is too little, too late to salvage his season, let alone his Phillies career.
The improved stretch might indicate to some that the Hernandez roller coaster has finally bottomed out and is rising again. But the fact is that his numbers remain empty. He has no home runs, one stolen base, and two runs scored in those games.
It is time for the team to fully commit. It is time to dump Hernandez and turn the page from another failed 2012-17 player. Hand the starting job at second base to Kingery for the 2019 season and beyond, taking another step towards a brighter Phillies future.

Why the Yankees / Twins will win the AL Wildcard Game

Twins visit the Yankees for the 2017 AL Wildcard Game

On Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, the New York Yankees will host the Minnesota Twins in the American League Wildcard Game.

The Yanks are skippered by Joe Girardi, who has never experienced a losing season in his 10 years at the helm.

Girardi has accumulated a 910-710 record, and led the team to three AL East Division crowns. He also guided baseball’s marquee franchise to their most recent World Series championship back in the fall of 2009.

Girardi accumulated 1,100 hits across 15 seasons in the big leagues, which included four in Yankee pin stripes. Those four years, from 1996-99, coincided with the franchise’ most recent dynastic run. Girardi would win three World Series rings as a player with those Yankees teams.

Over in the visiting dugout, the Twins will be guided by Paul Molitor. One of the greatest hitters of all-time, the Hall of Famer amassed 3,319 base knocks over a storied 21-year career. He was a 7x All-Star and a 4x Silver Slugger Award winner.

Molitor was the MVP of the 1993 World Series while a player with the Toronto Blue Jays, and was also runner-up for both the 1978 AL Rookie of the Year and 1993 AL Most Valuable Player awards.

As the Twins manager, the Saint Paul native has compiled a 227-259 record over three seasons. Two of his three years have resulted in winnings campaigns. But a year ago, his Twins club finished at 59-103, the worst record in baseball.

This season, Girardi’s Yankees finished at 91-71, just two games behind the arch-rival Boston Red Sox in the AL East. Molitor’s Twins team was one of baseball’s most unlikely stories, and finished 85-77, good enough to capture the second AL Wildcard spot by five games.

During the first decade of this century, the Yankees ousted the Twins from the American League Postseason four times. New York defeated Minnesota in the ALDS in 2003, 2004, 2009 and 2010, the last two coming in three-game sweeps.

The host Yankees will enter the game as favorites, and prohibitive ones to many prognosticators. However, there are very good reasons to believe that each of these teams can win, moving on to a date with the defending AL champion Cleveland Indians in the ALDS.

WHY THE YANKEES WILL WIN
The 2017 New York Yankees are an offensive juggernaut, one that is led by a rookie masher who has become one of the most feared sluggers in the game today.
The Yanks were second in all of Major League Baseball with 858 runs scored this season, trailing only the Houston Astros by just eight runs. Their 241 home runs led the big leagues, and their .339 cumulative On-Base Percentage was third in the game.
That feared rookie slugger leading the way is 25-year old Aaron Judge. In his first full season, the right fielder hit for a .284/.422/.627 slash line. He crushed 52 home runs, knocked in 114 runs, and scored 128 times.
Judge, the odds-on favorite for AL Rookie of the Year honors, is far from the only threat in the latest incarnation of the Bronx Bombers. Another young stud is 24-year old catcher Gary Sanchez, who hit for a .278/.345/.531 slash while producing 33 homers and 90 RBI.
At age 27, shortstop Didi Gregorius combines flashy defense with a productive bat. He banged 25 homers with 87 RBI. Veteran left fielder Brett Gardner provided 21 bombs and scored 96 runs while leading the club with 23 stolen bases.
While those four are the offensive leaders, there are a number of other veterans sprinkled throughout Girardi’s possible starting lineup and bench options, any of whom could prove to be difference-makers. Primary among those options are Matt Holliday, Jacoby Ellsbury, Todd Frazier, Aaron Hicks, and Chase Headley.

Taking the mound for New York will be the club’s youngest starter, but perhaps it’s most talented. 23-year old Luis Severino went 14-6 with a 2.98 ERA and 1.040 WHIP in his first full season in the big league rotation. Severino went to the All-Star Game for the first time this year. He allowed just 150 hits over his 193.1 innings, with a 230/51 K:BB ratio.

Theoretically, every arm on the active staff is available for this loser-goes-home game. But Girardi has an excellent variety of regular bullpen options in righties David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle, Chad Green, Adam Warren, and Dellin Betances, and lefties Jaime Garcia and Chasen Shreve.

At the end of games, Aroldis Chapman provides an overpowering closing option. Chapman struggled some at times this season, but allowed just 37 hits over 50.1 innings with a 69/20 K:BB ratio.

Severino provides a strong start in front of a juiced-up home crowd at Yankee Stadium, and the talented bullpen holds a lead. Judge and company provide offensive fireworks reminiscent of Octobers past in the Bronx. That’s the recipe for a Yankees victory, and it is what most would see as the most likely scenario to play out in this AL Wildcard Game.

WHY THE TWINS WILL WIN

The Yankees aren’t the only effective offensive attack in this game. Minnesota finished seventh in MLB, fourth in the American League, with 815 runs scored. Their clutch lineup finished sixth in RBI in all of baseball this season.

30-year old 2nd baseman Brian Dozier may be the best all-around player on the team, and is one of the most underrated in the game. Dozier led the club this year with 34 homers, 93 RBI, 106 runs scored, and 68 extra-base hits. His 16 stolen bases were second on the club.

Center fielder Byron Buxton is both dynamic and enigmatic. His 29 stolen bases led the Twins, and he also provided 16 home runs. One of the fastest and most exciting base runners in the game today, Buxton is a premier defender as well, and could prove to be a difference-maker in one game.

He just has a lot of ways to impact the game,” Molitor said per Jake Seiner with the AP. “He might not get a hit and might be the most important player on the field, and there’s not a lot of people who can fill that bill.

34-year old veteran Saint Paul native Joe Mauer is a local legend. The Twins first round selection way back in the 2001 MLB Draft out of high school has spent his entire 14-year big league career in a Twins uniform.

Mauer produced his best season in years, hitting .305 with a .384 OBP, 36 doubles, and 71 RBI. He has been a part of four Minnesota playoff teams, none of which has ever advanced past the ALDS. He is also another Twins player with the potential to take over and win one game all by himself.

I’m really excited for this group to experience this,” Mauer said per Seiner. “There’s a lot of guys in our clubhouse that this is their first go-round. I was just real happy. It’s been a special year to see these guys kind of grow.

Rather than one or two big bats, the Twins tend to nickle-and-dime teams to death. They receive clutch production up and down their lineup from those already noted, but also from players such as left fielder Eddie Rosario, shortstop Jorge Polanco, and third baseman Eduardo Escobar.

The Twins have a huge hole in their lineup for this Wildcard Game. The regular third baseman, Miguel Sano, crushed 28 homers and drove in 78 runs in just 114 games this season. Problem is, Sano fouled a ball of his shin back in August, causing him to miss more than a month. He was activated from the Disabled List just this past weekend, and went 1-8 in limited action.

The Twins considered activating him right up until today, and in fact Molitor himself believed his slugger would at least be available to pinch-hit as recently as Monday. However, late word is that Sano will not be available for this game in any capacity.

Starting on the mound will be 34-year old Ervin Santana. The veteran righty went 16-8 with a 3.28 ERA, allowing just 177 hits over a staff-leading 211.1 innings pitched this season.

Molitor’s bullpen is not nearly as strong as that of his counterpart Girardi. 26-year old righty Trevor Hildenberger may be his best option. He will also turn to righties Tyler Duffey, Ryan Pressly, and Matt Belisle and lefty Taylor Rogers.

Don’t be surprised to see the skipper turn to one of his key starters instead. Rookie righty Jose Berrios might be the most talented arm on the staff. The 23-year old was used out of the pen over this past weekend in order to keep him sharp and get him prepped for just such a possibility.

Santana keeps the Twins in the game for five innings. Berrios provides three big ones out of the pen. The Twins hunt and peck at the plate, chipping away for a couple runs here, a couple there, and pull out a tight victory. That’s the most likely recipe for an upset road victory, and a date with the division-rival Indians in the ALDS.

THE MATCHUP AND PREDICTION

The teams met six times during the regular season, with the Yankees taking four of the six games. The Twins captured two of three in Minnesota back in mid-July. The Yanks then swept a three-game set in the Bronx just two weeks ago.

Santana started and lost the opener of that September series in his only appearance against New York this season. Though it was a narrow 2-1 defeat, he did not pitch all that well, surrendering two runs on seven hits over 5.2 innings.

Severino pitched even worse in his September start against the Twins, his lone appearance against Minnesota this year. He gave up three earned runs on five hits over just three innings.

Another poor effort from Severino could prove disastrous for the hosts. But I believe he bounces back, pitching well enough to keep his team in the game. The bullpen then shuts Minnesota down. Meanwhile, big Yankees bats do damage.

We’re just going to try to treat it like we have the whole season coming here,” Judge said per CBS New York. “We played well at home. I think once Severy throws that first pitch and we get the game rolling, it will all be the same. I think the buildup before the game is nerve-racking, but once we step out on the field, it’s the same game we’ve been playing since we were little kids.

I’ll predict the Yankees to win by something like a 7-3 final score. That should set up quite an interesting matchup with the Indians in one ALDS beginning on Thursday night.