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Yankees Have Had the Twins' Number

New York is 13-0 against Minnesota the last two seasons, but American League Central champs say the team is different now.

September 30, 2003|From Associated Press

NEW YORK — All the numbers say the same thing: The Minnesota Twins are overmatched against Mike Mussina and the New York Yankees.

The Twins are 0-13 against New York the last two years -- the first time the Yankees have swept consecutive season series from an opponent.

Mussina, who will start Game 1 of the best-of-five division series today at Yankee Stadium, is 20-2 with a 2.90 earned-run average in 24 career starts against Minnesota.

"I don't care what happened in the past," Twin center fielder Torii Hunter said. "This is the postseason, this is a different feeling. I'm ready to play. I come here to win."

Hunter and his teammates have plenty of reasons to believe they can, despite their recent history against the AL East champions.

Although the Yankees outscored Minnesota, 49-13, this season, all seven games were in April. New York was en route to an 18-3 start; the Twins stumbled out of the gate 9-12.

Since then, Minnesota juiced up its offense by adding leadoff hitter Shannon Stewart and solidified its pitching staff by moving young left-hander Johan Santana from the bullpen to the top of the rotation.

"We haven't seen them in so long," Yankee Manager Joe Torre said. "They are basically not the same team that we played."

The 24-year-old Santana (12-3) will start the playoff opener, only his second appearance at Yankee Stadium. With a fastball in the low 90s mph and an outstanding changeup, he went 8-0 in his last 12 starts of the season.

Despite Santana's age and limited experience -- he struggled in six relief outings for the AL Central champions last postseason -- Twin Manager Ron Gardenhire never hesitated to give him the ball in Game 1.

"That tells you all Santana is one nasty sucker, boy," Hunter said.

Santana made two relief appearances against the Yankees this season, striking out 10 in 5 2/3 scoreless innings.

Santana's second-half success mirrored that of the Twins, who were a major-league-best 46-23 after the All-Star break.

The Yankees do know all about the postseason -- and its pressure. They were upset by the Angels in the first round last October, and owner George Steinbrenner won't accept a third consecutive season without winning the World Series.

With a $180-million payroll, another playoff failure could cost Torre his job.

After Mussina (17-8), Torre will go with Andy Pettitte (21-8) in Game 2 on Thursday night against Brad Radke (14-10). Roger Clemens (17-9) is set to pitch Game 3 on Saturday at the Metrodome against Kyle Lohse (14-11).

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