The Yankees will enter the ALCS with three certainties in the rotation: James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, and Luis Severino. The latter pitched in Game Three against the Minnesota Twins and held them in check for four innings. Let’s breakdown that performance.
Severino’s slider was inconsistent in his outing against the Twins. At times, it didn’t have his accustomed bite, and he left a couple of them in the heart of the zone, a situation that the Twins didn’t quite take advantage of. They were close, though.
In the second inning, Minnesota loaded the bases with no outs, thanks to a double by Eddie Rosario, a walk by Mitch Garver, and a single by Luis Arraez. However, the Yankees’ ace reached back and hung a huge zero on the scoreboard. He got slugger Miguel Sano to pop out to first baseman DJ LeMahieu, and then struck out both Marwin Gonzalez and former Yankee Jake Cave, showing a lot of character and competitiveness in the process.
Severino didn’t record his first swinging strike until the first batter of the second inning, Rosario. He ended the night with four hits allowed and two walks, plus four punch outs. He had ten swinging strikes in total in his four innings, four of which came in that rollercoaster-like second frame.
This at-bat ended up in a strikeout to Miguel Sano, as you can see:
Severino went slider for show, changeup off the slider then blew the fastball by him for strikes 1, 2 and 3 to Sano. pic.twitter.com/Z4MJKrslwH— Jomboy (@Jomboy_) October 8, 2019
Slider, changeup, then the high fastball. The GIF only shows the strikes, though. The K came in a 3-2 count. The slider, however, was very dangerously placed in the fat part of the zone. This was in the fourth inning.
Severino’s night also had pitches like this one, to get the second out in the second frame, against Gonzalez:
Late, sudden break. Filthy.
After Arraez singled to load the bases with no outs, the Twins’ Win Expectancy (WE) went up to 62.6 percent, its highest point in the game. By the time Severino struck out Cave, that number collapsed all the way down to 39.5 percent. The ace right-hander finished the game with the highest WPA, with 0.232.
It should be remembered that Severino lost most of the season to injury, and he only has been pitching at the highest of levels for a few weeks. It is not surprising that he struggles with the shape and command of his breaking ball from time to time. Pitching is hard, and he has to get in a groove and find consistency with every aspect of his craft: mechanics, release point, arm action, and others.
For now, the Yankees will take his last outing, in which he wasn’t vintage Severino but managed to keep his team in the game. Fans will, as well. He does need to minimize mistakes for what is coming, though. Both the Astros and Rays have hitters that can capitalize on a hanging slider and make him pay.
The last game of the ALDS against Minnesota was definitely a weird, intense night in which Severino didn’t look as sharp (he also received a couple of generous called strikes) as we know he can look when he’s healthy and in a groove. Still, he managed to get the job done and, after four scoreless innings, handed the ball to the Yankees’ deep bullpen to finish the job.
In a best-of-seven series, though, it would be ideal if Severino was capable of maintaining a high level for six or seven frames, closer to his vintage form. That way, he could take some load off the bullpen.
As good as Paxton and Tanaka are, Severino is the true ace of the team when healthy, as his skill and talent are comparable to Houston’s trio (Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Zack Greinke) and Tampa’s frontline starters Charlie Morton and Blake Snell. Here’s hoping he can step it up in the ALCS.