The formula is basic and stands the test of time:
If the Twins are in the playoffs chasing, the Yankees wish should play them.
Or do you think they would rather take their chances against these Indians? These Indians who treated Yankee Stadium as their personal Xanadu on Thursday night?
By beating the Yankees, 19-5, the Indians remained a half-game behind the Twins – who beat Rangers – in the American League Central, which goes down as a pinstriped negative. If the playoffs began today, the Yankees, with the AL's best record, would face the winner of the Rays-at-Indians wild card game, and the Twins, who planted third, would open at the second-seeded Astros.
Certainly if administered a truth serum, the Yankees would admit that they preferred the twins or rays over the Indians in the best of the five rounds.
"It's a team that offers many challenges," Aaron Boone said of Cleveland before the game. “Really good pitching staff, obviously. Really good starters to come with the good pen and a lineup with some star players in it. Obviously a lot of switch hitters, so they create some matchup issues.
"They have obviously included some guys in [Yasiel] Puig and [Franmil] Reyes, something right-hung that it gives them. So they are a challenge. "
Cleveland's offense, its Achilles heel at the start of the season, did quite the show courtesy of revived Jose Ramirez, one of the wrestlers to whom Boone referred, who struck two homers, including a first-inning grand slam, and drove home six runs; old mate Carlos Santana (two homers, four RBI); and high-profile trading acquisitions Yasiel Puig (two singles, two RBI), among others. Starting with a knockout of opener Chad Green, who gave up five runs in one-third of a inning, the Native Americans smoked so badly that Boone thought of knocking off designated hitter Mike Ford at eighth and ninth. The Indians have now won 44 of their last 63 matches.
"This is the kind of game you remember," Ramirez said through an interpreter. "… Hopefully we come across them or not in the playoffs, but they are a really competitive team, and it's a good feeling when you get a good result like today."
"It's nice," Cleveland veteran second baseman Jason Sa Kipnis. "We have guys who haven't played here before. It makes it a little easier for them to relax. Obviously this can be a bit impressive."
The Indians can be a little impressive opponent. Starting pitcher Adam Plutko limited the Yankees to three runs in the six innings, and it's unlikely he'll even be part of a starting rotation in the playoffs that should include a two-year winner of Cy Young Award Corey Kluber (if he fully rehabilitates his fractured right ulna), Shane Bieber, Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac, the Indians bull started the day ranked third in baseball with 4.8 wins over compensation, according to FanGraphs; the Yankees, with 6.2, placed first.
Throw in Cleveland's battle-tested boss Terry Francona and maybe even a thirst for revenge after the Yankees fantastic upset of these guys in ALDS 2017, and you can understand why the Yankees would rather have the Astros deal with them while getting a less complete, less experienced October record, especially when you think about the success they have registered against the Twins (4-2) and the Rays ( 12-5, with two games remaining).
If this sounds vaguely familiar, remember that in 2010, when the Yankees relieved the gas pedal in their AL East tête-à-tête with the Rays, they didn't bother to settle for the wild card and take on AL Central winning twins instead of Cliff Lee's rangers. Of course, they have met Minnesota five times during the postseason – ALDS 2003, 2004, 2009 and & # 39; 10, plus & # 39; 17 AL wild-card races – and eliminated the Twins each time.
While the Yankees can do just as much to control their first-round matchup, it wouldn't hurt them to keep an eye on it. And praying to the baseball gods to take them somewhere except “The Rock and Roll Capital of the World” in October first week.