With New York's magic number to reach the playoffs at four and to win the AL East at seven, CC Sabathia will take the hill opposite Twins starter Samuel Deduno, and the duo could not enter the matchup on more different paths.
Sabathia delivered one of his finest performances of the season his last time out, against Oakland, allowing only three hits and striking out 11 over eight scoreless innings during which his velocity steadily climbed. In his previous three starts, Sabathia surrendered three, five and four runs, respectively, prompting concern in New York that the veteran left-hander was not entirely healthy after spending two stints on the disabled list earlier this season.
"I know it's been a season where it hasn't been vintage CC," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said after Sabathia's most recent start, "but here's a guy with an ERA under 3.50, and we're not calling it vintage CC. That's how good he is. Tonight might have been the best game he's pitched all year."
Deduno's most recent start was arguably his worst, as the Tigers chased the righty after he'd given up seven runs in 2 1/3 innings -- his shortest start since he joined the Twins' rotation in July.
Deduno has shown potential despite entering the season with only six career relief appearances to his name, but he has struggled with control all year, walking 51 batters in 77 1/3 innings -- something a patient Yankees lineup could exploit.
"You look around and see a base open early in the game and you think, 'Maybe we should walk this guy or pitch around him,'" Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "But then you look at the next guy, and you realize it makes big numbers even bigger. They beat the ball around pretty good. You try to get a many outs as you can without putting extra guys on base. That starts with the starting pitcher. You can't walk people."
Yankees: Cano snaps out of funk
Girardi attempted to get Robinson Cano's bat going on Tuesday by letting the slumping second baseman serve as the designated hitter, resting the infielder's legs after Cano hit .224 through the first 22 games of September. It worked, as Cano went 3-for-3 with a run scored in New York's 5-4 loss.
Cano has started 151 of New York's 154 games this season, 142 at second base and nine at designated hitter.
Girardi hypothesized that Cano's workload could contribute to struggles that saw his average drop below .300, or that it was simply the difficult nature of New York's September schedule amid a pennant race.
"You just know how good of a hitter he is and that he's more than likely to come out of it," Girardi said. "It'd be great for it to happen soon, but guys go through it. They go through their struggles."
Twins: Willingham out with shoulder sprain
Josh Willingham missed Tuesday night's win and will remain out of the lineup on Wednesday after an MRI exam revealed a sprained left shoulder.
Willingham said he injured the shoulder in the seventh inning of Monday's 6-3 Twins loss, when he lept near the left-field wall in an attempt to rob Eric Chavez of a home run. Before Tuesday's game, Gardenhire was unsure if Willingham would be able to return on Friday for Minnesota's series opener against Detroit.
"He's definitely sore," Gardenhire said. "We'll call it day to day, but how many days, I'm not sure."
Nick Swisher's fourth-inning home run on Tuesday gave him three consecutive games with a homer. It's the first time he has put together such a streak since 2008, as a member of the White Sox. Swisher has hit safely in eight consecutive games and homered in four of his last six, going 11-for-30 (.367) with 11 RBIs in that stretch.
The Twins' game against the Tigers on Saturday will be aired nationally on FOX, and the start time has been moved to 3:05 p.m. CT.