The New York Yankees are on the brink of moving on to their second American League Championship Series (ALCS) in three years after taking down the Minnesota Twins 8-2 in Game 2 in the ALDS on Saturday.
New York lead the series 2-0 ahead of going to Minnesota for Game 3. Jake Odorizzi was passed over for the start in Game 2 by the Twins but he will likely toe the rubber in Game 3 on Monday.
The Yankees will likely counter with Luis Severino.
What we learned from Yankees' ALDS Game 2 win over Twins
Masahiro Tanaka's regular seasons don't matter
It seems like every year there is panic about Masahiro Tanaka and his lulls during the regular season.
But sometimes some pitchers just show up when the lights are brightest. For example, Brandon Backe had a career 5.23 ERA with the Tampa Bay Rays and Houston Astros over eight seasons. But in the postseason he had a 2.95 ERA. He showed up when he needed to.
Tanaka has struggled over the past few years as he is constantly managing his iffy elbow. He gave up six runs in 0.2 of an inning against the Boston Red Sox in London. Panic ensued and it continued when he finished the year with a 4.45 ERA. But Tanaka always shows up in the postseason.
He threw five innings and allowed one run in Game 2 against one of this year's best and most clutch lineups – Minnesota were second in MLB with a .292 batting average with runners in scoring position. Tanaka now has a 1.54 ERA in 35 career postseason innings.
Matchups don't always pan out
The Twins played purely a matchup in Game 2 by starting rookie Randy Dobnak over Odorizzi. The rookie came into the game with a 53 per cent groundball rate, which would have been fifth in MLB had he pitched enough innings to qualify. Odorizzi had a 35 per cent groundball rate, which was the third-worst in all of baseball.
Minnesota wanted to avoid the fly ball at Yankee Stadium, so they started Dobnak. He did avoid the fly ball, but he also gave up six hits and four runs in two innings of work. He kept the ball in the yard, but he also aided New York in jumping out to an 8-1 lead in three innings.
Dobnak was the better matchup in Yankee Stadium than Odorizzi was on paper. But pitching Odorizzi was the right decision due to his age and experience. Throwing in a rookie to pitch in the Bronx is not a good idea. As much as modern-day analytics say clutch does not matter, psychology entirely disagrees.
The rookie struggled a big part due to nerves. Odorizzi should have been the play here, but the Twins stuck too close to the paper.
Did Didi Gregorius bust through his slump or was this an anomaly?
Didi Gregorius showed up in Game 2. He went two for three, but most importantly, he smacked a grand slam in the third inning to bust the game wide open.
Gregorius came into this game mired in a two-for-25 slump. He had not hit a home run since September 10 and finished the year with a .238/.276/.441 slash line.
So is Gregorius out of his slump or was he simply put in favourable spots to succeed?
He hits better against righties, better in wins, likes pitchers like Tyler Duffey and Dobnak, hits well with runners in scoring positions, hits pitchers the first time well and also well with bases loaded.
A lot of things went in his favour in Game 2. Could his slump be broken? Absolutely. But he was put in some good spots on Saturday.
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