SportsPulse: The New York Yankees showed off their muscle in disposing of the Twins on their way to the ALCS.
MINNEAPOLIS — You wanted drama in the New York Yankees-Minnesota Twins series?
Well, you came to the wrong place.
The only tension in this American League Division Series was wondering whether Yankees slugger Aaron Judge would spray Budweiser on Giancarlo Stanton, or whether Stanton would douse him with a bottle of champagne first in the celebratory Yankees’ clubhouse.
It was that kind of series.
It amounted to nothing more than a bye-week for the Yankees.
“All we did was to go out there and play our best baseball,” said Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius.
The Yankees — stop us if you heard this before — swept the Minnesota Twins in three games, winning Monday night, 5-1, in front of a sellout crowd of 41,121 at Target Field, who have seen this act over and over and over again.
Well, the players may have changed, and the years have gone by, but it has all remained the same.
The Twins still cannot beat the Yankees.
“Our guys should be walking out of that clubhouse with our heads held high, and they never stopped playing,” said Twins manager Rocco Baldelli. “Our guys continued to fight day in and day out.
They have now beaten them 13 consecutive time since Oct. 5, 2004, shattering the all-time postseason record against a single team.
The Twins and Yankees began facing one another in the playoffs since 1961, and 68 years later, the Twins have still not defeated Yankees in a postseason game in Minnesota.
And with the exception of Twins Cy Young winner Johan Santana, no Twins’ pitcher has ever beaten the Yankees in a playoff game.
The Twins now have lost 16 consecutive postseason games overall, tying the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks for the longest postseason losing streak in North American Sports history.
Who knew that winning the American League East would guarantee you a first-round bye?
The Twins tried everything to break the curse.
Twins DH Nelson Cruz addressed the team after their Game 2 loss, reminding them that it was no fluke they won 101 games and hit a major-league record 307 homers.
Former Twins greats Rod Carew, a Hall of Famer, and Torii Hunter spoke to the hitters Monday before the game, telling them to stop relaying on the home run, and just concentrate on putting the ball in play.
Twins officials cranked up the volume on the loudspeakers, with music blaring louder than it ever has all season, pleading with the sell-out crowd to get crazy, scream, make noise, and do everything possible to turn it into the Midwest version of the Bronx Zoo.
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They even turned out the lights during Yankee pitching changes with the fans using the flashlight on their cell phones as if they were at a Prince concert.
So, what happens?
Well, the players may have changed, and the years have changes, but everything always remains the same.
Well, if there was any consolation prize for the Twins, at least this one was close.
The Twins threatened to score throughout the game, but except for Eddie Rosario’s leadoff homer in the eighth, came away empty time and time again.
Their frustrations were best exemplified in the second inning when they loaded the bases with none out against Yankees pitcher Luis Severino.
Miguel Sano, who hit 34 home runs during the season, hit a high infield pop-up for the first out. Marwin Gonzalez struck out on four pitches. Jake Cave struck out on six pitches.
The Twins would have runners on first and second in the third inning, and again in the fifth, and a runner on second base with one out in the sixth, and couldn’t bring home a run.
A team that hit 307 homers during the season, with five players hitting 30 or more, the Twins hit only one home run in the last 21 innings.
And for a team built on home runs, it was a recipe to be swept out of the playoffs.
The Yankees now have four days off before they play again on Saturday, facing the winner of the Houston Astros and Tampa Bay Rays.
“The way we played tonight was championship-caliber baseball,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said during the clubhouse celebration. “Just really proud of the effort, ’cause I know we wanted to finish this off and get back home.”
Pardon the Yankees for rooting for the Rays.
If nothing else, they’d at least like to see the series go five games, assuring that co-aces Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole would have one less start in their series.
“I think our guys are locked and ready to go,’’ Yankees manager Aaron Boone said, “and this time of year, look at those off days as really good recovery days and beneficial. I think we have that mindset.’’
Certainly, they proved against the Twins that their offense is in October-form. The Twins’ starting rotation lasted just 11 innings in the three games, surrendering nine runs and permitting 22 baserunners.
Not a single Twins’ starter lasted past the fifth inning.
“That’s a strength of this team,” Judge says. “One through nine is going to most likely get to a 3-2 count every single time. You’re going to foul off some pitches, and then if you’re not going to pitch to us, we’ll take our walks.
“No one’s selfish, and that’s what makes this team so great. We get into that bullpen early, and when we’re able to get to a bullpen early, especially in a series like this, it helps you out not only in that game, but the next couple games down the road.”
The next road trip will most likely take them to Houston, where Verlander and Cole await.
The Yankees are not afraid.
They are ready for the American League’s main event.
Follow Nightengale on Twitter @Bnightengale