Foul tip: Damn Mussina, not the Yankees
As crazy as it sounds, for the last few years I've felt like the Twins have the potential to be better than the Yankees, at least in head-to-head competition.
Things, of course, haven't quite worked out that way. The Yankees, for starters, knocked the Twins out of the playoffs in 2003 and 2004. (The final game of the 2004 season, a playoff loss to the Yankees at the Dome, was especially excrutiating.) And then there was the recent atrocious record the Twins accrued in the Bronx--winless in three regular seasons.
But even so, I think the Twins could stoke their hot streak against the Yanks.
For starters, all the focus is on the powerful lineup New York has, and it's true that the firepower is there. But isn't that always the case? The Twins have more often than not pitched well against the Yankees, and this weekend I think the staff will settle down and show that it's the best staff in the AL.
More than that, the Yankees look weak in middle relief, and the Twins have been scoring runs in batches in those innings. They could jump out ahead very quickly if a New York starter gets in trouble.
Finally, the Twins aren't just on a roll, they're oozing confidence, which they really haven't done since Puckett was still playing. Besides, as everyone knows, the Yankees are old, old, old.
Some other things to watch.
1) The Mussina factor. Mussina is long past the point of being one of the top three pitchers in the American League, as he was once upon a time. Still, he's got enough to dominate the Twins, as he has for all of his career--he's 20-4 lifetime against them. People are looking for the thus-far-pathetic Rondell White (.088) to break out this weekend, especially since he's 5 for 8 lifetime against Mussina. White may hit this weekend, but it won't happen tonight--Mussina's got some kind of curse cast on the whole franchise.
2) Los Bates del Fuego. It won't matter much if White doesn't hit, as long as everyone else continues to. Morneau and Hunter among the league leaders for RBIs? Castillo, Castro and Punto all hitting .300 or better? I'll take it. The team's batting average jumped from .225 to .267 during the sweep against the A's.
3) The Silent Assassin. For all the big names on the Yankees, the one I fear the most is Hideki Matsui. The guy had the quietest 116 RBI season ever last year, and he always, always, always gets a key go-ahead hit against Minnesota. If the local hurlers can keep him in check, they'll go a long way toward Minnesota coming out of this series with a .500 record or better.
As always, comments after the game and throughout the weekend are welcomed.