8:00 PM EST, ESPN – Money Line: Yankees -123, Run Line: 10.5 over 120
With the All-Star Break in the rearview mirror, the race for the Playoffs has officially began as a pair of teams vying for the American League Wild Card meet tonight in Minneapolis, as the Minnesota Twins host the New York Yankees in the second installment of a three-game series from Target Field. After getting off to a torrid start to the campaign, the Yankees (47-44, 3rd in AL East) have been hit with a cold dose of reality, falling back to Earth losing twenty-one of their last thirty contests, including three of five since emerging from the Break. Fresh off of splitting a four-game set with the Boston Red Sox, Joe Girardi’s charges found themselves on the wrong end of a tight one in Minneapolis. Falling behind 2-0 in the early stages of the affair, Austin Romine (.237 BA, 6 2B, 2 HR, 19 RBI) drove home their first run via a Double to deep Right Field in the Fifth Inning, followed later by another Double, this time courtesy of Garrett Cooper (.286 BA, 2 2B, 0 HR, 1 RBI) to square things away at two runs apiece in the Seventh. However, the Eighth frame is where it all fell apart, as Reliever Caleb Smith (0-1, 6.00 ERA) relinquished back-to-back runs, first off of a go-ahead Single to load the bases, followed immediately by Double to Right Field now doubling the lead and effectively ending the contest. Bryan Mitchell (1-1, 4.29 ERA) made the start, but lasted just five innings, allowing a pair of runs (one earned) on six hits, with a pair of strikeouts and walks, before Smith came in to relive him of his duties. For his part, Smith started strong, striking out five in his three innings of labor, but ultimately couldn’t avoid the collapse in the Bottom of the Eighth. Home Run Derby Champion Aaron Judge (.311 BA< 13 2B, 30 HR, 66 RBI) was uncharacteristically quiet Monday Night, going 0-for-3 from the plate, striking out once and walking once more. Heading to the mound for Girardi and Co tonight is Luis Cessa (0-3, 4.18 ERA), with the young Righthander being recalled from the franchise’s Triple-A affiliate Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for the third time this season. The 25-year old has not found much good fortune in his brief spells of action, and for that matter neither has New York, who have met defeat in each of his six appearances. Cessa last saw the field in a 9-4 loss against the Milwaukee Brewers, tossing a pair of scoreless innings scattering three hits over that span. Tonight will mark his first start since lasting 4.2 innings in a loss against the Toronto Blue Jays last week. The Yankees need this kid to start performing for the Rotation has been racked with injuries of late, with Michael Pineda (8-4, 4.39 ERA) needing Tommy John Surgery along with five other arms manning the Disabled List.
Meanwhile, don’t look now, but here come the Twins (47-44, 2nd in AL Central), who with last night’s victory over the Yankees have now pulled with a half-game from the final Wild Card in the American League. Splitting their first four games since the All-Star Break, Paul Molitor’s charges had to climb their way back after relinquishing an early two-run lead, but nevertheless did so in dramatic fashion. With the score nodded up at two runs apiece in the Eighth Inning, Joe Mauer (.285 BA, 17 2B, 5 HR, 34 RBI) got things started by reaching base, followed directly by Miguel Sano (.270 BA, 12 2B, 21 HR, 62 RBI), before the former scored thanks to an Eduardo Escobar (.273 BA, 9 2B, 8 HR, 29 RBI) Single to Left Field, and a crucial throwing error by the visitors, allowing the latter to race to Third. After taking the lead, the hosts were far from done, as the very next batter, Eddie Rosario (.289 BA, 16 2B, 10 HR, 30 RBI) pelted a Double to Right Field, driving home Sano to double the lead and for all intents and purposes sealed the deal. heading to the mound tonight for the Twins is Bartolo Colon (2-8, 8.14 ERA), the ageless veteran, who will be making his first start with the franchise after serving a brief period in their Minor League System after being dumped by the Atlanta Braves, who signed him to a 12.5 million deal over the Offseason. The twenty-one-year Dominican Republic International lasted just thirteen starts with the Atlanta (just sixty-three innings), and simply put, looked like his career might be over upon his release. A year after going an impressive 15-8 while posting a 3.43 ERA (his lowest in fourteen years) at the ripe age of forty-three, Colon appeared to be a pitcher ages past his prime this term, yielding a career-worst 8.14 ERA, 1.778 WHIP, and 13.1 Hits per Nine Innings. Furthermore, he no longer possessed the power or durability that made him such a consistent performer throughout his lengthy career; Colon averaged a mere 2.10 Strikeouts per Walk, with his control betraying him as well at 2.9 Walks per Nine Innings, his highest figure posted since 2009. At this point, whatever Molitor receives from the 44-year old would be described as a welcome surprise, particularly after one lone start with Triple-A affiliate Rochester, which for lack of a better word, didn’t play out as hoped; Colon yielded four runs on four hits, with five strikeouts and a pair of walks despite lasting just 3.2 innings of work. With that said, Minnesota has positioned themselves in the AL Wild Card conversation, and could really use another arm in the Rotation (or Bullpen) to help them return to the Playoffs for the first time since 2010.