It doesn't take long for a Minnesota Twins fan to get discouraged when you look at the team's playoff appearances this past decade.
They've lost nine straight playoff games dating back to 2004. Six of those losses have been to the New York Yankees.
"It's hard not to look at the past -- that's pretty obvious," said Twins right fielder Michael Cuddyer, the only player left who was with the Twins in 2002. It was the last year the Twins won a playoff series.
Since then, the Twins have been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in each of four trips to the post-season, winning just two of 14 games in the process.
But Cuddy, as Cuddyer's teammates call him, said there's hope.
"Number one, it's a different team. Number two, we get to open up here, rather than in New York," he said. "We've got a little more going for us going into this series."
That said, no one is dismissing the defending World Series champion Yankees, especially manager Ron Gardenhire.
"You're dealing with a good Yankee baseball team that's been there for a lot of years," he said. "We're a good baseball team -- yes, we've had our issues with with them, we haven't beaten them, all those things are out there -- it's easy to see. Look at the records.
"But we've had so many chances. It's all about making a play against them, making a pitch against them. They get it done, they find a way. That's what we have to do."
As the team took batting practice Tuesday at Target Field, players noted what is better about this year's Twins.
They point to a bullpen that's deeper. An offense that's benefited from Delmon Young's break-out season. The addition of veteran slugger Jim Thome.
They also note that tonight's starter, Franciso Liriano, was an unknown factor this spring, just three years removed from elbow surgery. But 14 wins and 201 strikeouts later, Liriano is starting the playoffs for his team. He was named yesterday as the American League's Comeback Player of the Year this week.
Infielder Nick Punto notes another benefit going into this year's series. The Twins clinched their playoff spot with two weeks to spare. Last year, they had to win a nail-biting one-game playoff just to get into the post season.
"Going from celebrating (with) champagne to game one 12 hours later -- that's never fun. I mean, it's fun but it takes a toll on you," he said. "This year, we got to set up our rotation, get guys healthy and go into the post-season fresh."
There have been setbacks, though, namely the losses to injury of closer Joe Nathan and first baseman Justin Morneau. The Twins also continued to struggle this year against the Yankees, losing five of seven regular season games to them, though all those games were in May.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi will use only three pitchers in his starting rotation during the Twins series. Two of those three are lefties -- CC Sabathia and Andy Petitte.
Girardi said it's a way to have lefties on the mound against a lefty-heavy Twins line-up in four of the series' five games, if it goes that long.
Sabathia will start tonight's game for New York.
Twins players noted yesterday how nasty Sabathia's slider can be. As Twins shortstop and former Sabathia teammate J.J. Hardy put it, he's made a lot of hitters look stupid.