On the first pitch of Luis Severino’s start Friday night, he threw a purpose pitch at Boston Red Sox star Mookie Betts. He threw high and inside, but not enough to be warranted as hit by pitch.
It was twofold: First, it was to support Brett Gardner after being hit by a pitch in the first inning on Rick Porcello’s third pitch of the evening. Second, it was to show he was going to intimidate the Red Sox hitters all night long. He would have made Roger Clemens proud.
It was the only highlight of what was a forgettable night for the alleged Yankees ace and the Yankees. It was all downhill from there as he and the Yankees took a 4-1 loss to the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
The Yankees needed Severino to pick them up after an awful 15-7 loss to the Red Sox on Thursday night. They needed a great performance from him by pitching seven scoreless innings and striking out Red Sox players. They needed him to set the tone for a Yankees’ road win.
Instead, he came up small by giving up three runs in a 33-pitch first inning that would set the tone for the Red Sox to win the second game of a four-game series. He threw a hit-me pitch to Babe Ruth incarnate Steve Pearce, who hit a two-run home run that would give the Red Sox a 2-0 lead while hitting four home runs off the Yankees in two games so far. Then, he walked Ian Kinsler, who promptly stole second, and he followed it up by giving up a RBI single to Eduardo Nunez that would score Kinsler, giving the Red Sox a 3-0 lead.
That inning was the story of the game. One bad inning doomed Severino and the Yankees. This could have been a 4-0 game if Aaron Hicks does not make a great catch that would rob Brock Holt of a RBI hit that would have scored Nunez. Instead, it was mercifully the last out of the first inning.
It was a message sent by the Red Sox. They responded after Severino threw high cheese at Betts that got them infuriated. It showed the type of chemistry where players feed off on each other, which is something the Yankees struggled to create, but we digress.
This game was about Severino. He failed, and he was why the Yankees lost last night. It did not go unnoticed by Red Sox manager Alex Cora when he pondered if the Yankees ace had a quality start by giving up four runs in less than six innings. It was a dig by the Red Sox manager as he was salty for being tossed in the first inning after arguing about the Yankees and Red Sox were issued warnings by home plate umpire Adam Hamari. This was in response to Gardner and Betts getting plunked in the first inning.
In Severino’s last five starts, he was 1-3 with an 8.28 ERA. He has given up 23 earned runs in 24 ⅔ innings while opponents are hitting .364 with a 1.070 OPS and while giving up eight home runs in the process. He has also struggled to throw strikes.
His performance against the Red Sox was decent. He gave up four runs on seven hits in 5 ⅔ innings, and he managed to throw 115 pitches to give some relief for his bullpen. But the Yankees shouldn’t set the bar low for a starter who is supposed to be one of the best pitchers in baseball. They should demand more out of him, especially when he only struck out two Red Sox batters.
There is speculation the amount of workload and innings are catching up to Severino. Tough cookies. He has to rise above it by finding a way to pitch through a dead arm or pitch through the dog days of summer. The Yankees are going to need him if they are going to play in a one-game playoff. He can’t be pitching like Sonny Gray, who is now demoted to the bullpen.
If the Yankees are going to be a championship team this season, Severino has to pitch like a difference maker. He is going to have to catch a second wind after going through an arm fatigue.
Severino has never been in a situation where he had to lead the Yankees to a win. He never had that Andy Pettitte moment. That comes with experience, and the only way it will happen is if he gets it done. He has to show it now, and that’s why his performance against the Red Sox was disappointing. It’s hard to trust him in a big game at this point.
There’s no way he can pitch in the one-game playoff for the Yankees to advance in the American League Division Series. He has pitched like he has not earned it.
It’s up to him to change the narrative. He has to figure it out. The Yankees can’t afford him to miss starts for a dead arm since every game is important. They are going to need him.
Until then, it’s time to stop anointing him as an elite starter when he is pitching like a mediocre starter.