The Yankees were in need of a laugher. And the right pitcher was on the mound to lead them to one.
Luis Severino accentuated his rank among baseball’s elite starters in the Yankees’ 6-0 win over the Phillies on Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park, striking out nine batters across seven innings in a shutout performance.
Severino now has a major league-high 12 wins, and his 2.10 ERA is ranked second-best in the American League — fourth-best in MLB.
But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Severino has posted six or more strikeouts in 23 consecutive road starts, and only Hall-of-Famers Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson have more such games in the Modern Era. That’s nobility.
At just 24-years-old, Severino has emerged as a legitimate Cy Young candidate, and while the Yankees’ offense frequently owns the spotlight, Severino has been the team’s most valuable player.
His repertoire is esteemed. His presence is intimidating.
Severino has been unflappable when his turn in the rotation arrives. And those are necessary traits of a true ace.
“I always feel great when Sevy’s on the mound,” manager Aaron Boone told the YES Network after Tuesday’s game. “To see Sevy go out there, and just knowing the run we’re on, I think he understood the importance of pitching deep into this game and giving us that kind of outing. I thought he found his slider after the first couple of hitters, the fastball was really strong tonight. He was in command the whole game.
“On top of how good a pitcher he is, when he’s in a really good groove, he’s get it and go. He was doing that tonight, and really in command from jump street. Just a strong outing, another one we needed.”
Severino also threw a career-high 12 pitches of 100-mph or faster on Tuesday, and he leads all major league pitchers with 44 pitches with speeds in the triple-digits. One of his fastballs that struck out Phillies’ outfielder Odubel Herrera in the fourth inning clocked in at 100.6-mph, which was the fastest pitch for a strikeout by a starting pitcher in 2018., according to Statcast.
Plus, Severino threw first-pitch strikes to 23 of the 26 Phillies batters he faced.
“I was feeling good and I had the command,” Severino told YES. “I was getting ahead in the count with the fastball and I saw they couldn’t catch my fastball and I took advantage of that. When my fastball is good, I can throw a good game with two pitches. My changeup wasn’t there today, but when I’m feeling like that, I can get through a good lineup with my fastball and slider.”
Austin Romine, who will serve as the Yankees’ starting catcher while Gary Sanchez recovers from a right groin strain, concurred with Severino. The battery was on the same page all night.
“When he can command his pitches on the outside corner, you’re going to see nights like that where he’s just kind of rolling through,” Romine said. “We gave him a bunch of runs, so it allowed him to get in a rhythm, and he did what he does. He was executing his pitches. He was throwing up in the zone, he was throwing in and out, he had the slider working, mixing in some change-ups.
“That’s what Sevy does. He goes out there and throws six, seven, eight innings, 100-mph fastball and a really good slider.”
Considering that the Yankees are currently without two starters from their Opening Day rotation — Jordan Montgomery underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery in early June and Masahiro Tanaka is still rehabbing two strained hamstrings — Severino’s brilliance has been magnified. His successes hold more weight. The stakes are much higher.
And with the Boston Red Sox visiting the Bronx this weekend, the Yankees need a reliable, dominant arm on staff in order to withstand a tight divisional race that could potentially reach its climax during the final week of the regular season.
With an off day Thursday, Severino’s next scheduled start would come next Monday. But with Boston in town and a highly anticipated Sunday Night Baseball matchup on the horizon, the Yankees could slide Severino in on four days’ rest. And he would gladly accept the challenge.
“Every time they give me the ball, I want to win,” Severino said. “I want to face any team. I’m not scared of anybody.”
And to hear these words from a pitcher who went 0-8 with an 8.50 ERA as a starter just two years ago is one of the most remarkable storylines. In a four-season span, Severino has been regarded as a touted rookie, a middling bullpen piece, and a budding ace. His poise, character, and work ethic are generating positive results, and the Yankees are reaping the benefits.
Severino is in the upper echelon of starting pitchers. He has the tools to become a perennial All-Star. And like Max Scherzer, like Justin Verlander, like Corey Kluber, Severino should be feared and respected by all major league teams.
‘There’s no question that he’s our ace, and we know when he gets the ball, he has a chance to dominate and that we have a chance to get it done that day,” Boone told YES. “We’ve seen all the Houston guys that have been really good, but Sevy’s right there with him. It’s hard for me to imagine anyone being any better.
“That record in a lot of ways speaks for itself. The ability to get deep into games. He’s putting himself in that conversation as the best in the game, no doubt about it.”