This is the fourth time in the past eight seasons that these clubs have met in a Division Series. The Yankees now have an 11-2 edge. The trend line is even worse than that for the Twins. The Yankees have won their past eight postseason games against the Twins, and the Twins are carrying an 11-game postseason losing streak into the Bronx. Since the Division Series was instituted, AL teams that start the series 0-2 have won just four of the 20 series -- and only one had home-field advantage (2001 Yankees).
The thing is, the Twins are nothing like chumps, patsies, pushovers. The Yankees may treat them as though they were the Pittsburgh Pirates, but apart from these October meetings, the Twins have a record of real accomplishment.
The Twins have won six division titles in the past nine years. During that period, only one team has reached the postseason more often. Unfortunately for the Twins, that team has been the Yankees.
Now, the Twins are at the brink of another postseason elimination while the Yankees are on the edge of another postseason advancement. Phil Hughes will start for the Yankees in Game 3 against lefty Brian Duensing. Hughes has appeared in 11 postseason games, but all in relief. Duensing had one postseason start in 2009, which resulted in a loss to the Yankees.
But both teams have reasons to feel confident about their Game 3 starters. Hughes won 18 games for the Yankees this year, and Duensing solidified the Twins' rotation after he joined it in late July.
Both pitchers expressed enthusiasm for the task at hand during Friday's interview sessions at Yankee Stadium.
"If you don't want the ball, there's something wrong with you -- especially this time of year," Duensing said. "But I want to go out there. I want to throw. I want to win."
Asked about the opportunity to finish off the series, Hughes responded: "It's great. Being my first postseason start, it's definitely a different feeling than being in the bullpen. But I'm looking forward to it. And it should be an exciting challenge. I feel like I'm ready."
On the other side, what do the Twins have left in the tank, given a bunch of close October losses to the Yankees? When manager Ron Gardenhire was asked after Thursday night's gut-wrenching loss if the Twins still believed they could beat the Yankees, the usually jovial manager bristled.
"That's kind of a sad question," Gardenhire said. "You're questioning a Major League Baseball team there. We'll play all right. We have a lot of heart. We have a good baseball team, and that's kind of sad that you asked that question.
"We're in the hole. We have put ourselves in the hole and the Yankees have put us in a hole, and we have to try to dig ourselves out. We will do the best we possibly can. And Duensing on the mound, we kind of like that."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi was gracious when he was asked about the Yankees' postseason domination of the Twins.
"It just seems like every game can go each way," Girardi said. "So, I mean, they're a very good ballclub and we understand that. And we still have a lot of work to do."
The Yankees' victory on Thursday night was a matter of Andy Pettitte being better than Carl Pavano, which, as a matter of historical record, should not have been a surprise. But the general competition between the Twins and the Yankees, two teams good enough to consistently qualify for the postseason, might not figure to be this utterly one-sided.
And yet, it is. More than anything else, this is probably a tribute to the Yankees. With 27 World Series championships, yes, their postseason success does tend to be taken for granted. But the Twins have been too good to be pushed around consistently by anybody else. This head-to-head postseason record says more about the Yankees than it does about the Twins.
The two teams went through their off-day workouts at the Stadium on Friday, on the same infield and the same outfield, but inhabiting different galaxies as far as the outlook for this Series was concerned.
Now, the Yankees need just one more victory to close one more chapter in the continuing saga of their postseason success against the Twins. This has happened often enough that it seems routine. But it is far more impressive than that.