The 2019 season will be remembered as the Year of the Dinger. But will it stretch into the October postseason?
We’ll find out when the Twins and Yankees - the first two teams in history to each hit at least 300 home runs in a season - open an American League Division Series on Friday night in Yankee Stadium.
Major League Baseball set a record with 6,776 home runs this season, beating the old record by 671. Fourteen teams broke franchise records for home runs. There were 24 teams with at least 200 home runs.
Is that too many?
That’s going to be an offseason debate question. Commissioner Rob Manfred says that MLB is going to study the baseball after pitchers across both leagues complained about how tight it is wound.
The top five home run hitting teams made the postseason.
The Twins led the majors at 307, followed by the Yankees at 306. The Astros were at 288 and the Dodgers 279. Oakland was fifth at 257.
Imagine how many home runs the Yankees would have hit had Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge not spent so much time on the injured list. And perhaps because the Dodgers are in the designated hitter-less National League, maybe their home run total should be the single-season record.
Ironically, the A’s were beaten 5-1 by the Tampa Bay Rays, who hit four home runs in a pitcher-friendly Oakland ballpark. The Rays, by the way, ranked 21st in home runs in the majors.
The Twins are a surprise team, especially with their power.
They bounced back from a 78-win season in 2018 to win the AL Central.
But will the Twins’ historic power be enough to help them end a 13-game postseason losing streak when they play in the ALDS?
That losing streak includes 10 consecutive defeats to the Yankees and three to Oakland.
The Twins’ last postseason win was in Yankee Stadium in Game 1 of the ALDS in 2004. Twins lefty Johan Santana pitched seven shutout innings in a 2-0 win against Mike Mussina and the Yankees.
The Twins came close to winning the second game and taking a 2-0 lead back to Minnesota in the best-of-five series, but they lost 7-6 in 12 innings.
The Twins scored in the top of the 12th on Torii Hunter’s home run, but the Yankees scored twice in the bottom half of the inning on Alex Rodriguez’s RBI double and Hideki Matsui’s sacrifice fly.
The Twins lineup is punishing. They hit their 267th home run on Aug. 31, tying the Yankees’ record from 2018. Former Oriole Jonathan Schoop hit the history-making 300th home run in Detroit.
Nelson Cruz hit 41 home runs for the Twins, even though he was bothered by a wrist injury in the second half. Max Kepler hit 36 and Miguel Sanó 34, even though Sanó played in only 105 games.
Eddie Rosario hit 32 and Mitch Garver - a part-time catcher who played in 97 games - finished with 31. Three others - C.J. Cron, Jorge Polanco and Schoop -eclipsed 20 home runs.
The Yankees were led by Gleyber Torres’ 38, but the middle infielder cooled down in September. Catcher Gary Sánchez hit 34. Five other players hit at least 21.
The Yankees are a surprise team, too, given they had 30 players on the injured list this season. The Yankees were in command of the AL East for most of the season.
The Twins started 40-18 and had a lead of 11 ½ games after beating Tampa Bay 9-7 on June 3, but they didn’t clinch until the final Wednesday of the season. Cleveland went 41-16 and beat the Twins 6-2 to move into a first-place tie on Aug. 9.
The Yankees bullpen - with everyone from Zack Britton to Aroldis Chapman - could be the best among October postseason teams. The Twins bullpen, thin earlier in the season, has improved in the second half. The closer is Taylor Rodgers and other names to watch are Trevor May, Sergio Romo and Tyler Duffey.
Both teams have thin rotations.
Minnesota’s rotation took a hit when one its best pitchers, Michael Pineda, who had 11 wins and a 4.01 ERA, was suspended for failing a drug test.
That leaves José Berríos, Jake Odorizzi, Martín Pérez and Randy Dobnak as the likely starters in the postseason. Starter Kyle Gibson spent time on the injured list and didn’t pitch well in September.
The Yankees didn’t put CC Sabathia on their ALDS roster. James Paxton has been lights-out in September. Masahiro Tanaka has been up and down and Luis Severino, a stud from a year ago, missed the first 5 ½ months of the season with a shoulder injury. The Yankees rotation is thin and manager Aaron Boone has considered using Chad Green as an opener.
Usually, playoff games are about grinding out at-bats and manufacturing runs.
With weak rotations and power-hitting lineups, the Twins and Yankees might change all of that.