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What's ahead? Yankees postseason FAQ

@BryanHoch
September 29, 2019

NEW YORK -- The Yankees and Twins played one of the most entertaining games of the season in late July at Target Field, decided in extra innings when Aaron Hicks raced toward the gap in left-center field to rob Max Kepler with a game-saving catch, preserving New York’s 14-12 victory.

NEW YORK -- The Yankees and Twins played one of the most entertaining games of the season in late July at Target Field, decided in extra innings when Aaron Hicks raced toward the gap in left-center field to rob Max Kepler with a game-saving catch, preserving New York’s 14-12 victory.

In the moments that followed that unforgettable conclusion, Aaron Judge stood in front of his locker in the visiting clubhouse and gushed: “It’s a postseason game right there. They’re going out there giving their best, we’re giving our best. It just came down to who wanted it more at the end.”

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Now the Yankees and Twins will get to find out who truly wants it more, as the clubs prepare to meet in the American League Division Series. Game 1 is scheduled to be played at Yankee Stadium on Friday.

The postseason has not been kind of late to the Twins, who have lost 13 consecutive playoff games -- 10 of them to the Yankees, who ended Minnesota’s seasons in 2003, '04, '09, '10 and '17. Yankees manager Aaron Boone wants to enjoy a similar outcome in 2019, but he knows it will not be easy.

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“They’re a beast,” Boone said. “We played a pretty epic series with them, a very offensive series with them at their place in July. We know how dangerous they are. It’s a team that if you’re not executing, they could make some trouble.”

What does the ALDS schedule look like?
The Yankees will host Games 1 and 2 of the American League Division Series on Friday and Saturday, with game times still TBD. All ALDS games will be televised on FS1 or MLB Network.

Game 3 of the ALDS will be played at Target Field on Oct. 7. If necessary, Game 4 would be in Minnesota on Oct. 8. If Game 5 is necessary, the ALDS would return to New York on Oct. 10.

2019 MLB postseason schedule

How have the Yankees fared against the Twins?
New York was 4-2 against Minnesota this season, and there could be record-setting home run performances between the two clubs that hit the most home runs in Major League history. The Twins finished with 307 homers, one more than the Yankees. Both clubs easily surpassed last year’s record-setting Yanks total of 267 homers.

The Twins haven’t won a postseason game against any opponent since Oct. 5, 2004, when Johan Santana outpitched the Yankees’ Mike Mussina in Game 1 of the ALDS. The Yankees won the next three contests to advance to the ALCS against the Red Sox and … well, you probably know the rest.

What about the next rounds?
Should the Yankees advance to the AL Championship Series, they would not have home-field advantage against the Astros, against whom they were 3-4 this year. They would own home field against either of the AL Wild Card teams, the Athletics or Rays. New York was 2-4 against Oakland and 12-7 against Tampa Bay this year.

Should the Yankees make the World Series, they hold home-field advantage over every NL club except the Dodgers, who finished with a better record.

How do the Yankees plan to handle their pitching?
The Yankees project to have James Paxton, Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka pitch the first three games of the ALDS, in some order. Paxton represents the hottest hand, riding a career-best 10-start winning streak before a tight left glute forced him out of his final regular-season start.

Boone said he hopes to announce a Game 1 starter early this week. J.A. Happ has been told that he will pitch in relief for the postseason, raising the possibility that the Yankees could use Chad Green as an opener if the ALDS goes to a fourth game.

Which injured players could return for the playoffs?
There is optimism that the Yankees will have Edwin Encarnación, who continues to mend a left oblique strain, in the lineup for the ALDS. Encarnación had been expected to play in the season-ending series against the Rangers, but general manager Brian Cashman said the club made "a strategic decision" to rest the slugger until the ALDS. Encarnación is expected to take part in simulated at-bats this week in New York.

Boone said that the Yanks do not expect to get any of their other injured players back in the near future, a group that includes Hicks, who is in the early stages of a throwing program at the team’s complex in Tampa, Fla. Outfielder Mike Tauchman is also likely done for the season, though there is a small chance he could be ready by the World Series.

What will CC’s postseason role be?
CC Sabathia made his first career regular-season relief appearance on Tuesday against the Rays and seemed to bounce back well. The Yanks are entertaining carrying Sabathia as a reliever for the ALDS and will try him again out of the bullpen this weekend. Boone has said that no decisions have been made yet regarding Sabathia’s place on the roster.

Who could be the Yanks’ odd men out?
If Encarnación is able to return (and his batting-practice power displays during the series against the Rays indicated that he probably will), Boone may have difficult decisions on a nightly basis. DJ LeMahieu figures to start every postseason game at either first base or third base, leaving Encarnación, Gio Urshela and Luke Voit to battle for two spots in the lineup.

The best defensive alignment would have LeMahieu at first base, Urshela at third base and either Encarnación or Voit as the designated hitter. If healthy, Boone may lean on Encarnación; Voit has had a solid year overall, but he is playing with a sports hernia and has homered just twice since being activated from the injured list in late August.

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and Facebook.