Yankees manager Bret Boone listed a four-step plan to success for the 2019 season.
The third step awaits.
The Yankees won the AL East, finishing seven games ahead of the second-place Rays, and 19 games ahead of the defending world champion Boston Red Sox.
Then they swept their way through the best-of-five AL Division Series against the Twins, who have become to the Yankees in the post-season what the Washington Generals have been to the Harlem Globetrotters.
And now comes the ALCS. The Yankees flew back to New York Tuesday morning, following Monday's 5-1 victory in Minneapolis that completed the three-game sweep, where they will find out whether they will have the home-field advantage in the ALCS, hosting the Rays, or open the ALCS on Saturday at Houston. The Astros, who compiled the best regular-season recor din baseball, have a 2-games-to-1 edge on the Rays in the AL Division Series.
The final step would be the World Series, but first they have to win four more games in the ALCS.
They won't, however, have the Twins to kick around any more -- at least not this year.
Yankees starting pitcher Luis Severino only worked four innings in the clinching victory, but they were scoreless innings, and he was making only his fourth start after spending five months on the injured list with a right rotator cuff iritation. He wasn't perfect, giving up four hits and walking two. But he made the big pitches, particularly in the second inning when the Twins loaded the bases with nobody out.
Severino's response? He got Miguel Sano to pop up, and then struck out Marwin Gonzalez, and Jake Cave. It was definitely a strong showing compared to his post-season debut, which also came against the Twins, back on Oct. 3, 2017 when he started the Wild Card game for the Yankees against the Twins. He faced six batters, retiring only one of them, and giving up three runs on four hits, including two home runs, and a walk.
"A lot of things go through your mind right then," Severino said of his thought process when the Twins loaded the bases, "like what happened in 2017. I was talking to myself, `You don't want that to happen again. You've just got to get out of this.'"
And he did.
And down in Tampa on Monday
After Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole bomined to work 14 2/3 innings, striking out 23 and giving up five hits in setting the stage for the Astros to shutout the Rays in the first two games of the best-of-five ALDS, there were thoughts of a sweep with Zack Greinke taking the mound for Game 3 on Monday.
Greinke may have made $34.5 million in 2019 and be guaranteed another $35 million each of the next two years, but he does turn 36 on Oct. 21, and his post-season efforts of late have not been impressive.
The Astros bid for a sweep disappeared amid a 10-3 loss at Tampa Bay.
Could it be some wear and tear over the course of a full season leaving Greinke a bit short come October?
In his last four post-season starts, Grienke is 0-3 with a 7.58 ERA. While his teams are 1-3, that one win came when the Diamondbacks overcame Greinke allowed four runs in 3 2/3 innings against the Rockies in the 2017 Wild Card Game and beat the Rockies 11-8. Grienke has allowed eight home runs in 19 innings of those four games.
That included three home runs in 3 2/3 innings in the loss to the Rays.
And that led to the Astros deciding to try and close out the ALDS against the Rays in four games, instead of going back to Houston for a Game 5, and deciding to start Verlander on short rest Tuesday, knowing that Cole would be rested if needed for either a Game 5 or the weekend opener in the AL Championship Series against the Yankees if the Astros are able to hold off the Rays in the ALDS.