Luis Severino finally made his season debut for the New York Yankees, pitched four shutout innings, topped out at 99 mph, threw 47 of 67 pitches for strikes and even talked Aaron Boone into letting him pitch an extra inning.
As the Yankees start to focus on their postseason pitching plans, Severino's outing couldn't have gone much better, considering his limited rehab work in the minors as he returned from shoulder and lat injuries. Suddenly, a playoff rotation with some serious concerns looks a little stronger and definitely deeper.
Severino's outing got off to a shaky start when Los Angeles Angels leadoff hitter Brian Goodwin worked a 12-pitch walk and David Fletcher followed with a base hit. Severino got a double play to escape that inning and allowed just one hit and a walk in his final three innings. In fact, his night appeared to be over after the third inning, but he went back out in the fourth to finish his stint. He hit 99 mph three times that frame, looking much like the two-time All-Star who went 33-14 with a 3.18 ERA the past two seasons:
Luis Severino said Aaron Boone wanted to take him out after the third inning because he saw some fastballs at 93-94. Severino said he'd give him velocity in the next inning and went out and threw 98.— Lindsey Adler (@lindseyadler) September 18, 2019
As he watched from the dugout railing as the Yankees built on a 2-0 lead and cruised to an 8-0 victory, Severino was all smiles:
Yes, this was a bad Angels lineup missing Mike Trout, but Severino flashed his filthy stuff, including a wipeout slider to go with his high-octane four-seamer. His swing-and-miss rate of 26.5% was right on par with the 26.8% he averaged last year.
"My fastball command, I think, was great," Severino said. "I still need to work a little bit more in sliders to left-handers."
Obviously, it's one game, and we'll have to see how he bounces back in his next appearance, but it's a huge positive for the Yankees.
"Looked pretty good out there, pretty sharp," catcher Austin Romine said. "We need Sevy where we're going. He's pitched some big games for us, and we look forward to him pitching some more big games for us."
Boone will spend these final two weeks figuring out how he'll work his rotation for those big games. James Paxton has won nine consecutive starts, posting a 2.50 ERA and .170 opponents' average in that stretch, and is looking more and more like the Game 1 starter. After that? Who knows. Masahiro Tanaka has been inconsistent all season; he has allowed two runs or fewer in 16 of his 30 starts but still has a 4.60 ERA. He has allowed 16 hits and eight runs in nine innings in his past two starts. Domingo German has 18 wins, but his last outing was a four-inning relief appearance as Boone perhaps prepares him for a bullpen role in October.
Indeed, what we might see is Paxton and perhaps Tanaka used in more traditional roles, and then Boone perhaps will use tandem starters in the other two slots, some combination of Severino, CC Sabathia, German and perhaps J.A. Happ (two righties and two lefties, which could be beneficial). Or maybe Severino can work his way up to 90-100 pitches and be ready to go five or six innings. After that, Boone will lean heavily on his bullpen, though the ranks there thinned out, as Dellin Betances, who just made his season debut on Sunday, is done for 2019 after the Yankees announced that he suffered a partially torn Achilles tendon in that outing.
If Severino looks this good in his remaining work, I slot him behind Paxton and go with a rotation of Paxton, Severino, Tanaka and Sabathia/German tandem -- with lots of innings from the league's best bullpen.
Severino's return from injury so late in the season to a potential prominent role in the postseason wouldn't be unprecedented. In 2015, Marcus Stroman made just four late-season starts for the Blue Jays after tearing his ACL and then started three times in the playoffs. In 2012, Chris Carpenter didn't return for the Cardinals until Sept. 21. He made three starts and then three in the postseason (the final three of his career, as it turned out). The Yankees will hope Severino makes more than three starts -- more like four or five, a number that will indicate the team has made the World Series and Severino is throwing well.
Correa also returns: Carlos Correa had been out since Aug. 19 with lower back stiffness and went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in the Houston Astros' 4-1 win over Lance Lynn and the Rangers. He was a little rusty; no surprise there, plus Lynn isn't exactly chopped liver. He fanned Correa swinging in the second on a 95 mph pitch up and away (good location), on a 1-2 cutter swinging at the knees (good wipeout pitch and location) and got Correa to line out softly to shortstop in the seventh (just 54-mph exit velocity). Correa then fanned swinging against Jose Leclerc.
Still, adding Correa and hitting him seventh ... yeah, that's no fun for opposing pitchers:
Why is Carlos Correa and his .911 OPS hitting 7th?— Mark Armour (@MarkArmour04) September 18, 2019
[checks rest of lineup]
Meanwhile, Justin Verlander helped his Cy Young case with six scoreless innings to run his record to 19-6 with a 2.50 ERA. Alex Bregman helped his MVP case with his 37th home run. Yordan Alvarez helped his Rookie of the Year case -- well, who are we kidding, he's going to win that easily -- with a 454-foot missile to center field, his 26th home run.
Brewers win again, beat Padres 3-1: Brandon Woodruff returned from the injured list to pitch the first two innings of a bullpen game, Mike Moustakas hit a big, go-ahead home run in the seventh, and Drew Pomeranz blitzed through the final two innings, six up and six down, to get the save and keep Josh Hader on the bench for a night. That's 11 wins in 12 games for the Brewers, including a 7-1 record since the night Christian Yelich got hurt in the first inning.
If this feels vaguely familiar, it's because the 2018 Brewers won their final eight games to wrest the division title from the Cubs. Of course, that was in large part due to Yelich, who hit .458 with five home runs and 17 RBIs those final eight games. This year, they don't have their MVP. In this 12-game stretch, they're hitting just .235/.326/.430 (they've averaged 5.0 runs per game due to some timely hitting). The pitching has been terrific, allowing 3.4 runs per game.
Worth repeating: The Brewers play all sub-.500 teams the rest of the way. They picked up a game on the Cardinals and Cubs, so they're now tied with Chicago and two games behind St. Louis. Those two teams have seven games against each other. The Brewers might sneak in and steal the division, which they haven't led since July 5.
Five is fine: When Miguel Sano launched a mammoth 482-foot moon blast for his 30th home run, it gave the Twins five 30-homer sluggers -- an MLB first. Sano joins Nelson Cruz, Max Kepler, Mitch Garver and Eddie Rosario in the 30-homer club. Twelve other teams in MLB history have had four 30-homer guys. And don't count out the Astros from getting there. Bregman and George Springer already have 30-plus. Yuri Gurriel has 29, Jose Altuve 28 and Alvarez 26.
Biggio matches dad with a cycle: Have a day, Cavan Biggio. The Blue Jays rookie went 4-for-5, hit for the cycle and stole two bases. Trivia time! He's the second player in 100 years to hit for the cycle and have multiple stolen bases (joining Charlie Moore, who did it for the Brewers in 1980). He and Craig also become just the second father-son duo to hit for a cycle, joining Gary and Daryle Ward.
Yaz homers at Fenway: That feels like a headline from 40 years or 50 years ago, but it's true: Mike Yastrzemski, grandson of Hall of Famer Carl, homered at Fenway Park for the Giants, something his grandfather did 237 times in the regular season in his career (and four more times in postseason games). Carl was there:
Red Sox fans responded with a standing ovation.
One of the best moments of the season.