New York Post
Yankees learn hard lesson that they’re no longer dealing with Twins
T HE Twins are gone. All the Yankees pretty much had to do was show up in October and Minnesota was going to curl into a season-ending fetal position.
The Indians, for those keeping score at home, won the AL Central by 17 games over the Twins. Cleveland is the defending AL champion, with better personnel in every phase than the team that went to Game 7 of last year’s World Series.
In other words, Cleveland hardly is Minnesota’s twin. The Indians are distinctive heavyweights, and throughout this season, including Thursday night’s Division Series opener, the Yankees have not looked in their weight class.
It is not just that the Indians won 4-0. It was the methodical ease with which it was executed. The Yanks fell behind the Twins 3-0 in Tuesday’s wild-card game. No sweat. But when the Indians took a 3-0 lead in the fourth, it all but felt insurmountable.
And this is not the worst of it. The worst of it is Corey Kluber. He did not start Game 1. Indians manager Terry Francona went with Trevor Bauer, who did a darn-good Kluber imitation, dominating the Yankees with his fastball, curve and jurisdiction of the inside corner.
To avoid going down 0-2 in this best-of-five, the Yankees will have to succeed against the actual Kluber in Game 2. It is possible. But so, in theory, is climbing Everest in a Speedo. It just isn’t all that likely.
Since returning from the DL on June 1, Kluber has a 1.62 ERA in 23 starts, including two against the Yankees in August, when their hitters alternated between helpless and hopeless.
“He is one of the best, if not the best pitcher in baseball,” Brett Gardner said. “But we knew we would have to face him at some point in the series. We just have to have better atbats.”
Before Kluber in Game 2, Game 1 accentuated the strange role reversal of the small-market Indians as the go-for-it overdog and the Yankees trying to be the little engine that could as Cleveland’s heroes included Jay Bruce and Andrew Miller.
The Yankees were on the brink of acquiring Bruce in August from the Mets but didn’t for a variety of reasons, none bigger than their unwillingness to pay all that was left on his contract. The Indians were willing, how- ever, and in Game 1, Bruce doubled and scored, hit a two-run homer and lifted a sacrifice fly, giving him a hand in all the scoring.
When Bauer left after 6 2/3 twohit innings — it was 5 ¹/3 no-hit before Aaron Hicks doubled in the sixth — Miller entered. At the trade deadline last year, the Yanks were sellers and the Indians willing to give up big prospects to buy Miller, who was the greatest force in the 2016 postseason.
Miller had some control problems Thursday but still struck out three of the five Yankees he faced.
The acquisition of Bruce and Miller from New York teams defines the mindset of a franchise that is without a title since 1948.
And if the presence of Bruce and Miller was not enough, a Division Series game in Cleveland on Oct. 5 in a year ending in a “7” should have brought uneasiness to the Yankees.
On that date in 1997, Sandy Alomar Jr. turned around a Division Series by homering off Mariano Rivera in the eighth inning of what have could have been a clincher for the Yankees.
Ten years to the day later, in 2007, Joba Chamberlain was famously besieged by midges, altering that Division Series, as well.
On Oct. 5, 2017, Alomar threw out the ceremonial first pitch and — unfortunately for the Yankees — Bauer took over from there.
Francona was questioned for not having Kluber pitching in Game 1 rather lining him up for Games 2 and 5 on full rest. Bauer doused any further secondguessing and reminded everyone that besides every other edge, Cleveland has the gold standard in managing also, particularly at this time of year.
Always talented — but also al-
ways iconoclastic and, thus, polarizing — Bauer blossomed in the second half this season to a large degree by simplifying his repertoire and fixating on fastballs and curves. Seventy-six of Bauer’s 98 pitches were either four-seam fastballs or knucklecurves — the Yankees making particular postgame note of just how diabolically precise and darting the breaking ball was.
Bauer has grown into another above-average performer on a roster overflowing with those types. As opposed to Minnesota, Cleveland also benefits from the toughness and wisdom gained form last year’s deep postseason run.
“There are not big weaknesses on that team,” Chase Headley said.
The Twins are gone and it is going to be more than a Minny upset if somehow the Yanks rally to beat these Indians.