While there is still some final-week playoff sorting to do, the most likely Twins outcome in this 60-game regular season is gaining either the No. 4 or No. 5 seed and facing the Yankees in a three-game wild card round — all at the home ballpark of the higher seed.
The Twins have lost to the Yankees in a five-game series (five times) and a one-game playoff (2017), so why not give a three-game series a try?
Here’s the thing: While home field advantage would mean a significant amount in that series — since the Twins are 21-5 at home and the Yankees are 21-7 at home while both have losing road records — the biggest edge in a short series might come down to starting pitching.
The Yankees’ rotation is front-loaded, particularly with No. 1 starter Gerrit Cole. The Twins have moved closer to having a true No. 1 with the acquisition of Kenta Maeda — who almost certainly will be their Game 1 playoff starter — but their rotation strength lies more with depth.
That leaves them in a peculiar position: Getting past the first round will be difficult — particularly if it’s against the Yankees, for both historical and practical starting pitching reasons.
But if the Twins can manage to finally slay that dragon, they could be in a position to really take advantage of their rotation depth all the way to the World Series.
The strange format this season in the California bubble has the division series (five games) and ALCS (seven games) being played without any off days.
That will require teams to go with a full five-person rotation (or tempt fate and tiring out arms in a series without off-days with a bullpen game).
The Twins can throw Maeda, Jose Berrios, Michael Pineda and Rich Hill, then pick from either Jake Odorizzi (if healthy) or Randy Dobnak (if he’s back to being a ground ball machine again).
That sort of depth doesn’t typically come into play in a long series with off days for travel since teams typically shorten up to at least a four-pitcher rotation and sometimes three.
This could be the Twins’ best chance to make the World Series in a long time*.
*If, of course, they can beat the Yankees.