The Indians Have Their ALDS Opponent; Yankees 8, Twins 4

In 1997, the Cleveland Indians (86-75) faced the American League Wild Card winners, the New York Yankees (96-66), in the American League Division Series. The Tribe won in five games.

In 2007, the Indians (96-66) hosted the Wild Card Yankees (94-68) again in the ALDS. The Tribe won in four games.

In 2017, the AL’s top seeded Indians (102-60) will host the AL Wild Card representatives, the Yankees (91-71), again in the ALDS.

Can the Tribe win it this time in three?

The Indians learned of their first playoff opponent in their defense of the American League pennant as the Yankees advanced to the American League Division Series with an 8-4 win over the Minnesota Twins in the AL Wild Card Game on Tuesday night. The hard-fought victory, chock full of plenty of early action for both ball clubs, earned them the right to pack up for Cleveland for a best-of-five series set to start Thursday night at Progressive Field.

Things started off in just about the worst manner for the host Yankees, as right-hander Luis Severino was tagged quickly on the biggest pitching stage of his young career. Brian Dozier, Twins second baseman and leadoff man, greeted the 23-year-old by driving a 3-1 pitch over the wall in left-center to put the Twins up, 1-0, five pitches into the contest.

The Twins were not done with Severino, either. After veteran Joe Mauer fouled out to third, Jorge Polanco walked. Eddie Rosario made Severino pay for the free pass with a two-run blast to right to make it a 3-0 Minnesota lead just four batters into the night. Eduardo Escobar singled and moved to third on a double by Max Kepler before Severino struck out Byron Buxton, the last batter that he would face on the night. Chad Green, who deserves a significant amount of credit towards the outcome of the game, entered in a tight spot and struck out Jason Castro swinging.

Ervin Santana was on the mound for the Twins, but despite good numbers in the regular season, he was not in postseason form. Making his first playoff appearance since facing the Yankees in 2009 while with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and his first start since the 2008 playoffs, Santana committed a cardinal sin by walking the leadoff batter, Brett Gardner. Aaron Judge singled to center to put runners on the corners for Gary Sanchez, who fouled out to the on-deck circle for the first out. Didi Gregorius, who enjoyed a productive season in 2017, celebrated his first postseason AB just as Dozier did, sending a big blast out of the park. His three-run shot to right field tied the game at three.

Unlike his counterpart, Santana would work his way out of it, wedging a walk in between a fly out and a groundout to escape the first inning with the game knotted up, at least temporarily.

Gardner - Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Gardner – Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Green retired the side in order in the second, striking out a pair to provide some stability after a crazy and action-packed first inning. His teammates would step back into the batter’s box and after two fly balls, the lineup flipped over and Gardner turned the seventh pitch of his plate appearance into a souvenir. His solo shot off of Santana gave the Yankees a 4-3 lead.

Green ran into some trouble in his third inning of relief while attempting to spare the Yankees burning through a significant chunk of their arms in the early innings. He gave up a leadoff single to Polanco and walked Rosario before getting Escobar to fly to center. Kepler drew a walk to load the bases for Buxton, who had made an incredible leaping catch at the wall in the previous inning. He would ground to short, with Kepler forced at second, but Buxton’s speed helped him leg out the fielder’s choice to avoid the final out of the inning. Polanco scored on the play, tying the game at four. David Robertson came on for Green and struck out Starlin Castro, stranding a pair in scoring position.

The Yankees responded to the Twins run with what would prove to be the deciding run in the next half inning against Jose Berrios, who entered in relief of Santana after the Twins starter allowed four runs on three hits with two homers and two walks allowed in just two innings. A new pitcher, however, would not change the results for Minnesota as Sanchez doubled to start the bottom of the third before back-to-back strikeouts by Berrios. Nearly out of his jam, Berrios allowed a single to right to Greg Bird, scoring Sanchez from second with the go-ahead run, making it a 5-4 game. The Yankees would strand a pair in the inning, but they were back on top.

Robertson got a big double play in the top of the fourth after Dozier reached on an infield single. His teammates then gave him some room to pitch from as Gardner singled off of Berrios with one out in the home half and Judge just cleared the wall in left with a two-run homer, breaking the game open at 7-4.

Robertson returned for his third different inning of work in the fifth and struck out a pair. He came back out in the sixth, giving up a leadoff single to Zack Granite before striking out Castro and Robbie Grossman. A wild pitch moved Granite into scoring position and Robertson would walk Dozier, bringing manager Joe Girardi out of the dugout for Tommy Kahnle. The right-hander got the job done in a tight spot, retiring Mauer on a deep fly to Gardner in left to end the inning with two more runners left on base.

The Yankees tacked on one more insurance run in the seventh, with the third Twins pitcher of the inning on the mound. Trevor Hildenberger started the inning, giving up a walk to Judge and a single to left by Sanchez before putting on Gregorius intentionally. He got Castro to fly out for the first out and reliever Taylor Rogers struck out Bird for the second out, but Alan Busenitz walked Aaron Hicks on four straight to force in a run, making it 8-4 Yankees.

The Twins could do nothing against Kahnle, the former White Sox reliever who retired seven straight before handing the game over to Aroldis Chapman. He struck out Grossman and Dozier to start the ninth before Mauer extended his postseason hitting streak to nine games with a single to left. Down to their last out, Polanco became the third swinging strikeout victim of the inning and the Yankees began to pop their champagne for their Wild Card victory.

With the heavy bullpen usage sustained by the New York relief corps and the short outing from Severino, the makeup of the Yankees pitching staff for the American League Division Series is unknown. Green worked two innings, Robertson a career-high three and one-third, and Kahnle went two and one-third himself, but the club was able to avoid burning through a second starter or even All-Star Dellin Betances, keeping the back end of their bullpen relatively unscathed.

The Yankees will have to make their roster decisions by early Thursday in advance of Game 1 of the ALDS.

The Indians announced their roster earlier in the day on Tuesday, with several surprise additions and subtractions to their 25-man squad. In addition, the team also announced the somewhat unexpected news that Trevor Bauer will be the first man to the mound for the Indians in Thursday’s Game 1.

Game time from Progressive Field on Thursday is scheduled for 7:38 PM ET.

Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

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