The proactive management that is essential in a do-or-die playoff game allowed Luis Severino to make a few educated guesses on Wednesday. He had a hunch that his wild card start against the Oakland Athletics would last about four to five innings — and he was dead-on.
Can Severino expect the same pitching plan on Monday night? Maybe yes, maybe no.
All that Yankees’ manager Aaron Boone knows is that the lack of certainty is due to their fluid situation. He would love to see Severino pitch deep into Game 3 of the ALDS against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium, but if a quick hook is warranted, so be it.
“I don’t know how he knew it was going to be four or five innings [in the wild card game],” Boone told reporters on Sunday. “But I think that’s the thing we want our guys to go, as hard and as great as they can be, however long that is. So a little bit different than the regular season in that it could be three, could be four, could be — but I’m still open to it being eight innings. I want him to go out and be himself and go out there and look to really set the tone for us and throw his game, and if he does that, hopefully, we’ll be in a good spot at any time when we take him out tomorrow.”
Although Severino flirted with some trouble against Oakland on Wednesday, his overall performance was reminiscent of his old, dominant self. In four-plus shutout innings of work, the 24-year-old right-hander allowed two hits, four walks, and struck out seven in 83 pitches. His fastball command was sharp and his slider had plenty of bite. It was a vast improvement from Severino’s 2017 wild card start, when he recorded just one out in the first inning against the Minnesota Twins.
Severino admitted he was over-amped that night, so he made an effort to keep his emotions and energy in check while facing the Athletics before a raucous and boisterous Yankee Stadium crowd.
“I think it’s going to be like a regular game, the same atmosphere. The fans going to be loud,” Severino said. “I’m looking forward to that night. Tomorrow I hope that all the people that came that day come tomorrow to support us and see us beat the Red Sox.”
Boone took it a step further. He believes the home crowd is akin to that unique guitar amplifier in “This Is Spinal Tap.”
“I think the connection that our fan base and our fans now have with our players is a special one, and now you put it in the postseason, and you bring the Red Sox, who, obviously, that rivalry that’s there and as great of a team as they were this season, I think the atmosphere tomorrow night is going to be special, electric, whatever you want to put on it,” Boone said. “I think it’s going to be there, and hopefully we can go out there and give them reason to keep building as the game unfolds. I thought the atmosphere against the A’s was special. I think there’s a potential that it could be even more so tomorrow night.”
The Yankees have seen a boom-or-bust Severino in 2018. In his first 18 starts, he went 14-2 with a 1.98 ERA, which made him a midseason All-Star and front runner for AL Cy Young honors. But in his 12 starts after the All-Star break, he posted a 5-6 record, 5.57 ERA, and .291 batting average-against. Overall, Severino finished the regular season with a 19-8 record and 3.39 ERA in 32 starts (191.1 innings).
Interestingly enough, Severino pitched to a 2.74 ERA in 15 home starts this year, so the team has a reason to believe he’ll deliver once again.
“We always play good here at home and on the road too. We came here to win,” Severino said. “I think that the two games we played in Boston, they were good games. The first game, we almost won it. It was close. And the second game, we know what happened… We have a great team. We have a great lineup. We have a great starting lineup and starting pitching. So I think coming here is going to be good for us.”
Since last October, the Yankees are 7-0 in postseason games played in the Bronx. Boone hopes the hometown energy and momentum from Game 2 helps Severino and the team thrive.
“I want him to go out and be himself and go out there and look to really set the tone for us and throw his game, and if he does that, hopefully, we’ll be in a good spot at any time when we take him out tomorrow,” Boone said. “We’ve got to play well. We know we’re up against a great team. We’re really excited to come back and play in our ballpark where we feel like we have a home field advantage, where we know our fans are going to have an impact. We hand the ball to Sevy.
“So we’re excited about a lot of things going into tomorrow, but it really comes down to we’ve got to go out and perform and play well, and if we can do that, hopefully grab a lead in the series.”
Severino will oppose Red Sox starter Nathan Eovaldi in Game 3, with first pitch scheduled for 7:40 p.m.