On Thursday the Yankees and manager Aaron Boone announced that James Paxton will get the start in Game 1 of the ALDS on Friday night. On the Twins side All-Star right-hander Jose Berrios will take the mound. Masahiro Tanaka will follow Paxton in Game 2 and Luis Severino will start Game 3 in Minnesota.
Paxton starting Game 1 shouldn’t come as much of a surprise for Yankees fans after he finished the season winning 10 of his final 11 starts. He’s been outstanding since the start of August posting an ERA of 2.51 with 69 K’s in 61 IP and deserves the opportunity to get the ball to open up series.
The left-hander was very inconsistent through the first four months, but he turned his season around at the perfect time and pitched like the ace the Yankees were hoping he’d become when they acquired him last offseason. This will be his first postseason start so it will be interesting to see how he performs on the big stage under the most pressure than he’s ever faced in his career.
On the flip side, the Yankees offense will go up against the 25-year old Berrios. Over the past two seasons, he’s emerged as the ace of their rotation and one of the best young starters in the game today. This will be the first time he faces New York this season but it won’t be the first time he faces them in the postseason after he pitched during the AL Wild Card Game back in 2017. He was the first man out of the pen in relief of Ervin Santana and pitched three innings allowing five hits and three runs. One of those hits was a two-run home run by Aaron Judge.
Berrios’ rightie/lefty splits during the regular season were pretty even but against the Yankees in his career, two of their lefties in Brett Gardner and Didi Gregorius have hit him hard. Gardy is 4 for 9 with 3 RBI in nine career at-bats against him while Didi’s gone 3 for 6 with 2 BB and a home run. The Yankee shortstop really struggled down the stretch but he’s had a knack for coming up big in October so hopefully, he can get off to a good start against a guy he’s had some success against.
The other Yankees who’ve homered off of Berrios are Gary Sanchez and Edwin Encarnacion who has more at-bats than anyone on the roster against him with 22. He’s hitting .222 with 5 K’s in those at-bats but he’s expected to be in the starting lineup after his oblique felt fine during the sim games he took part in over the past few days.
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The Twins powerful lineup absolutely crushed left-handed pitching during the regular season and they have a couple of guys with really good numbers against Big Maple. CJ Cron is batting .333 with 2 HR in 18 at-bats and Miguel Sano is 4 for 11 with a home run. Marwin Gonzalez has the most at-bats against Paxton with 30, but he’s hitting .267 with 0 HR and three RBI.
There isn’t a more dangerous hitter in the Twins lineup than the veteran Nelson Cruz but he’s 0 for 3 with three strikeouts. However, Yankee fans know how dangerous he is this time of year after he hit .350 with 2 HR and 5 RBI against them when he was a member of the Rangers during the 2010 ALCS.
On paper Game 1 has the best chance of being a pitchers duel of any game during the series but with these two lethal lineups it could break out into a slugfest at any moment. This should be a fun one in the Bronx.