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Yankees ready to take on the Twins
10/03/2004 5:11 PM ET
TORONTO -- When the Yankees and Twins met last week in the Bronx, the two teams had very different agendas.

For New York the three games were a chance to wrap up the American League East title, their seventh in a row. For Minnesota the series was an opportunity to rest its starters, having already clinched its third straight AL Central crown.

The Yankees won all three games.

This week, when the two teams square off in the best-of-five American League Division Series for a second consecutive year, the matchup will have a much different look.

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"They were in a different situation when we played last week, because we needed the wins and they didn't," said manager Joe Torre. "It will be like seeing each other for the first time, even though we saw each other last week."

Unlike last week, the Twins won't be trying to conserve their starters or rest some banged-up hitters. Johan Santana and Brad Radke will pitch more than five innings each, and Shannon Stewart won't be sitting on the bench.

Most players in the Yankees' clubhouse don't think that there is any advantage of disadvantage to playing a team in the playoffs just a week after playing them in the regular season.

"With as much advanced scouting as there is today, the only difference is that the team you played most recently is going to be a little more in the forefront of your memory," said Tony Clark. "Other than that, there's no reason that the preparation will be any different."

"I don't think it makes a difference," said Jon Lieber, who defeated Minnesota last Wednesday. "They may think there's an advantage, but I don't. If you hit your spots and location, you have a pretty good chance to be successful, no matter who you play."

Though New York swept the series last week in the Bronx, giving them a 4-2 win of the season series, the Twins took two of three in the Metrodome in August, snapping a 13-game regular-season losing streak to the Yankees, so they may not have the mental disadvantage this year that they did last October, when New York ousted them in four games.

"They've become used to it," Torre said. "It's nothing new for them."

Some hitters feel that seeing a pitcher in consecutive weeks can give them an edge in the second meeting, but Javier Vazquez believes that a pitcher can benefit from back-to-back meetings just as easily.

"I like it, because I got to see some of their hitters," he said. "I have a pretty good idea, having seen them in Minnesota and then again last week."

The Yankees scored just one run over five innings off Santana and two in five frames against Radke, but both pitchers were removed from their respective games to conserve their pitch counts, allowing New York to battle back for wins against the Minnesota bullpen.

"We got a good look at all of their pitchers and they got a look at ours," said Alex Rodriguez. "There will be no surprises."

"It can be beneficial if you get an idea of how a pitcher may pitch you, but there can be some negatives, too," Clark said. "If a guy pitched well against you the last time, you may have to fight the mental battle that he has your number."

Torre admits that given a choice, he'd have preferred not to have faced the Twins so close to the playoffs, but there wasn't much he could do about it.

"I didn't like doing it and I'm sure [Twins manager Ron Gardenhire] didn't like it, but they won't be the same team and we may not be the same team," Torre said. "It's a whole different atmosphere."

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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