October 03, 2017 11:15 PM
Twins star Joe Mauer remembers well all those October losses to the Yankees. So too, surely, do Minnesota's fans.
Around the rest of the Twins clubhouse, though, it may as well be ancient history.
Back in the playoffs for the first time in seven years, Mauer and upstart Minnesota will face New York in the AL wild-card game Tuesday night hoping to turn around what has been a one-sided postseason rivalry.
New York eliminated the small-market Twins in the Division Series four times from 2003-10, repeatedly dashing the World Series aspirations of a largely homegrown lineup.
"Somebody asked me earlier, 'Does it feel like seven years?'" Mauer said. "I said, 'Yes, and all of that.'"
Mauer is the only holdover from that era. Minnesota now has a new batch of budding young stars, and it's a group that's already wrecked some history. Powered by Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton, these Twins became the first team ever to go from 100 losses one year to the playoffs the next.
"I'm really excited for this group to experience this," Mauer said. "There's a lot of guys in our clubhouse that this is their first go-round. I was just real happy. It's been a special year to see these guys kind of grow."
This time, Minnesota won't be running into playoff-proven Yankee greats like Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera.
Like the Twins, New York has been fueled by its burgeoning big leaguers. AL MVP hopeful Aaron Judge headlines the crew, which also includes Tuesday's starter Luis Severino and catcher Gary Sanchez. Only Brett Gardner, Greg Bird, Didi Gregorius and Chase Headley started for New York in their previous wild-card appearance, a 3-0 loss to Dallas Keuchel and the Astros in 2015.
"The faces have changed so much," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who managed New York past Minnesota in the 2009 and '10 ALDS.
The 6-foot-7 Judge set a rookie record with 52 homers this year and has become the new face of the franchise. He even has his own cheering section at Yankee Stadium — The Judge's Chambers in right field, which will host a group of Bronx school kids Tuesday.
Limiting Judge may be the most pivotal task for Twins starter Ervin Santana.
"Have to be careful with him," Santana said. "Don't try to leave any cookies right there."
Updated: October 03, 2017 11:15 PM
Created: October 03, 2017 05:11 PM
(Copyright 2017 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)