A popular theory going into this series was that the Twins needed to win game one if they wanted to have a shot at winning this thing. I disagreed. While having a one game lead is a nice luxury, it’s not a death sentence. With all of the concerns about the Yankees’ number two and three starters, Minnesota has a chance to jump ahead in the series, so game two will be the most important spot for the Twinkies.
Carl Pavano gets the call in game two, and he’ll have his work cut out for him. While Pavano’s never been one to fan many batters, he had an especially hard time during the month of September, posting a K/9 of 2.81. Yet, his whiff rate was roughly the same as it had been all year, and he still managed to have a K/BB of 2.00.
Pavano’s control puts him at a huge advantage against the Yankee’s lineup. New York has been the second best team in baseball when it comes to drawing walks, but their patient approach won’t do them much good against Pavano, one of the best in baseball when it comes to throwing strikes.
As far as his arsenal goes, nothing Pavano throws moves all that much or gets to the plate in a hurry. His changeup is easily his best offering, and he uses it as his strikeout pitch. I’d expect to see a lot of sinkers and changeups tonight, as Pavano will look to keep the ball away from the Yankee’s hitters.
One of the things that Pavano has done well this year is get a ton of ground balls, and that plays right into the Twins’ strength. According to UZR, The Twins’ outfield defense was worth almost 12 runs below average this year, but their infield defense is another story. Orlando Hudson, Danny Valencia and J.J. Hardy are all well above average defenders, so while Michael Cuddyer isn’t very good at first base, the Twins will be able to gobble up a majority of the grounders that Pavano can deliver.
As Jack mentioned last night, the Twins’ lefties really struggled against Sabathia, and they won’t get much of a reprieve tonight as the Yankees are sending Andy Pettitte to the hill. While Pettitte is certainly no Sabathia, he may have a fairly easy time keeping Jim Thome and Jason Kubel off balance at the plate. If the Twins can take pitches and force Pettitte to work hard early on, they could open up a big inning and chase him from the game sooner, rather than later.
What will Craig Sager dig out of a dumpster tonight? Probably something subtle. You know, something like a pink polka dot jacket with a yellow shirt.