What a remarkable season it’s been for the 2017 New York Yankees. Despite 23 blown saves—the fourth worst in baseball, this team still managed to scrape together a 91-win season. After being pegged to finish with a win total somewhere in the low 80s and miss the postseason, Yankee fans will pile into the stadium tonight for the Wild Card game in the Bronx.
Fake press conferences, the thumbs down movement, and contributions up and down the roster fueled a 20-win September—the best month of baseball in the Yankees’ 2017 campaign. Young, happy, and winning, this team is poised to make a deep run in October. But first, they must take care of business against the equally surprising Minnesota Twins.
Here are the numbers you need to know before Tuesday’s showdown.
Sevvy vs Santana
Luis Severino and Ervin Santana will toe the rubber at 8 PM and fight for a plane ticket to Cleveland.
The 34-year-old right-hander Santana is coming off of his best season since 2008 when he was just 25. Posting a 16-8 record with a 3.28ERA, Santana has racked up 167Ks and tossed 5 complete games this year.
In his one start against the Yankees this year, he went 5.2 innings with 7 hits and 2 earned—taking the loss after giving up a 1st inning solo homer to who else but Aaron Judge. Judge is 1 for 3 off Santana with that homer. Here are some Yanks that have had a lot of success off Santana, and some who haven’t.
Brett Gardner: 11 for 31 (.355) 3 2Bs
Matt Holliday: 5 for 12 (.417) 2 2Bs, 2HR, 1RBI
Greg Bird: 2 for 5 (.400) 2 HR, 4RBI
Jacoby Ellsbury: 10 for 34 (.294) 1HR, 2RBI
Chase Headley: 4 for 13 (.308) 1 2B
Didi Gregorious: 2 for 17 (.118) 0XBH
Todd Frazier: 4 for 21 (.190) 1 2B, 2HR, 3RBI
Starlin Castro: 2 for 11 (.182) 1 2B
Aaron Hicks: 0 for 6 (.000) 3Ks
Yankees manager Joe Girardi will definitely consider these numbers when he decides which direction to go with the lineup. Do you give the veteran Matt Holliday the starting nod? Who plays center field? Is Headley out of a starting spot? These are all the questions that Joe will be faced with as he prepares for their biggest game in 2 years.
As for Ervin Santana’s pitch repertoire this season, he throws a fourseamer, slider, changeup, and sinker.
Fourseam (39.1%, 93.1MPH AVG): .240BAA, 16HR, 51K
Slider (36.4%, 84.3MPH AVG): .153BAA, 8HR, 94K
Sinker (13.7%, 92.0MPH AVG): .320BAA, 2HR, 8K
Changeup (10.8%, 85.8MPH AVG): .286BAA, 3HR, 10K
Santana will have to bring his A-game on Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium, a place where he has had little to no success in his 12-year career: 20 starts, 6-10, 119.1IP, 138H, 75ER, 90K, 5.66ERA. On top of his limited success at the Stadium, the Yankees are 51-30 in the Bronx this season.
For the Yankees, their hopes of advancing ride on the right arm of their 23-year-old ace, Luis Severino. In a masterful 2017 campaign, Severino has established himself as not only the ace of the staff, but a surefire Cy Young finalist: 14-6, 193.1IP, 150H, 230Ks, and a 2.98ERA.
Talks of starting bullpen superman Chad Green were intriguing but ultimately unrealistic. Should Sev get in trouble early, however, definitely expect to see Green. Yankee fans remember a couple weeks back when Severino threw against the Twins at Yankee Stadium and labored: 3.0IP, 5H, 3ER, and 71 pitches thrown. Still in the hunt for the AL East at the time, Girardi decided to throw Severino against the Twins instead of hiding him until the Wild Card game.
His rocky start against the Twins was a small blemish on an otherwise impeccable September: 5 starts, 3-0, 30.0IP, 15H, 38Ks, 2.10ERA, and a .142BAA. No Minnesota Twin has faced Sev more than 2ABs, and should still be kept off balance by Severino’s electric repertoire he’s unleashed on opposing hitters this season.
Fastball (51.3%, 97.5MPH AVG FASTEST IN MAJORS): .251BAA, 13HR, 85K
Slider (35.1%, 88.3MPH AVG): .182BAA, 6HR, 122K
Changeup (13.5%, 87.2MPH AVG): .156, 1HR, 21K
What’s potentially the most concerning aspect of this game for Yankee fans is Sev’s home/away splits. A 3.71ERA at home compared to a 2.24ERA away from Yankee Stadium may be enough reason to be worried. However, if there’s one thing we know about Severino, he’s the last guy to back away from a challenge. Should things go south early on, the Yankees are well equipped to put all hands on deck to stop the bleeding and rely on their potent lineup to deliver.
Enjoying a career year, the Twins leadoff hitter has belted 34HR and driven in 93 runs. The 30-year-old has also been hot, hitting at a .298 clip in September with 5 2Bs, 8HR, and 19RBI. He’s also been the guy the Twins have wanted up in key spots all season. With 2 outs and runners in scoring position, Dozier is 18 for 62 (.290/.450/.565) with 5 2Bs, 4HR, and 30RBI.
The 2nd overall pick in the 2012 draft is the fastest man in baseball and is stealing bases at a nearly perfect rate. Buxton stands alone atop the statcast leaderboard for sprint speed (30.2 ft/sec). In 30 attempts steal attempts this year, the 23-year-old has only been caught once. Despite missing most of July on the DL, Buxton is hitting .300 in the 2nd half with a .347OBP—causing a headache for opposing catchers and contributing to Minnesota’s first playoff berth since 2010.
In a game that features two of the better table-setters in the game in Gardner and Dozier, they will be key in Tuesday night’s game. Gardy hit .264 this season with 21HR, 63RBI, and 23SB—the most swipes in a season for Brett since 2013. The Yankees have the second lowest caught stealing percentage in baseball (0.14 CS per game). If Gardner is able to get on a few times Tuesday and swipe a bag, Girardi will take his chances with Judge, Sanchez, or Didi to drive him in.
Surpassing Babe Ruth for the most homers in a single-season at Yankee Stadium (32 in ’21), Judge has the kind of power to put this game away early. Having already taken Ervin Santana deep and posting a September that was almost equally as impressive as his first half—the Yankees will count on their MVP candidate to come through yet again in a winner take all battle tomorrow night.