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Yankees 8, Orioles 3: Severino and dingers, a winning formula

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Brett Gardner and Matt Holliday each smashed a pair of homers, and Luis Severino cruised as the Yankees evened the series in Baltimore.

MLB: New York Yankees at Cincinnati Reds Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees are in the midst of a long stretch of division games. Tonight was the second game of a 13-game stint of AL East matchups, and given how strong the division looks so far, every game has real importance. So it was a nice sign to see the Yankees rebound from a tough opening loss to this series with the Orioles, as Luis Severino pitched well again, and the offense pounded Chris Tillman en route to an 8-3 victory.

Tillman entered the game having not allowed a homer this season, but Brett Gardner remedied that immediately with a home run to lead off the game. Gardner’s 10th homer of the season put the Yankees up 1-0 and kept him well on pace to eclipse his career-high in dingers (17, set in 2015).

Not to be outdone, Matt Holliday quickly followed with his 10th homer of the year to make it 2-0. Turns out, relying on never allowing homers isn’t a sustainable strategy, at least for a non-elite arm like Tillman.

In the second, Didi Gregorius led off with a double, and Aaron Hicks continued his superb season with an RBI-single up the middle to make it 3-0. A walk and a wild pitch put runners in scoring position, but Tillman minimized the damage with a groundout from Gardner and pop-out by Gary Sanchez.

Spotted an early advantage, Severino had to dance out of trouble in the second. Severino wasn’t generating swings and misses early, and a few batted balls found holes for singles to load the bases with two outs. He managed to get JJ Hardy to whiff on three consecutive sliders, however, to escape the inning unscathed.

Holliday, apparently deciding to force Tillman’s regression to the mean regarding home runs all by himself, crushed another solo shot in the third. Aaron Judge followed with a single, Hicks walked, and Chase Headley delivered the knock-out blow to Tillman with an RBI single to make it 5-0. Tillman simply couldn’t keep the Yankees from putting the ball in play, and they did damage on those balls in play. He finished with just 2.2 innings, seven hits, five runs, and a lone strikeout.

The hits didn’t stop with Tillman gone though. Former Met Logan Verrett came on, and Gardner kept pace with Holliday by smashing his second solo shot of the game. Singles by Sanchez and Starlin Castro put two runners on, and Judge brought them both home with a double to make it 8-0.

Meanwhile, the Orioles couldn’t get much going against Severino. He touched 100 mph with his fastball, pounded the strike zone, and generated weak contact all night. Only once did the Orioles really put a well-struck ball in play off Severino, a Mark Trumbo liner off the bat at 100 mph that went straight to Judge in right.

Severino couldn’t keep his sheet completely clean, thanks to some very poor luck. With two outs in the sixth, he yielded three infield hits to allow a run to score. The three hits each had between a five and 13-percent chance of going for a hit, according to Statcast. To go along with a Joey Rickard infield single in the second inning that had a seven-percent chance of going for a hit, over half of Severino’s seven hits had relatively minuscule chances of going for a hit.

Even so, Severino went 6.1 strong, striking out eight and walking just one. It was another quality start from Severino, who has simply been the Yankees’ best pitcher so far. He lowered his ERA to 2.93, with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of near five-to-one in his 61 innings this season.

The Yankees’ bullpen has been struggling as of late, running an ERA greater than five over the past 14 days, and those struggles continued. Tommy Layne and Adam Warren each got recorded an out to get the Yankees through the seventh. Bryan Mitchell came on for the eighth, and after allowing Trumbo to reach on an error and walking Trey Mancini, he allowed singles to Rickard and Hardy to drive in two and make the score 8-3.

But came on to pitch a scoreless ninth and put the game to rest. At 30-19, the Yankees maintained at least a three-game lead on the rival Red Sox, and knocked Baltimore to 4.5 games back. Masahiro Tanaka will be on the mound tomorrow night in the rubber match, coming off of one of the best games he’s ever pitched. He’ll face off with Kevin Gausman, with a chance to give New York a nice series win to start off this road trip.

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