Coming into this series, you’d be forgiven for expecting a series of high-flying games filled with loads of offense, but for the third time in four days, one team found itself unable to push a run across the plate, and for the second time in three days, it was the Yankees pitching staff that came out ahead. From first pitch to (almost) the final out, the Yankees pitching staff put on a masterful pitching performance, striking out Vladimir Guerrero Jr. four times en route to a 3-0 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays.
There’s only way to describe Luis Severino’s performance tonight: absolutely dominant. His final line is impressive enough — five scoreless innings with just two hits, two walks, and six strikeouts — but in truth, the line doesn’t tell the full story. Even after losing Teoscar Hernández last night to an oblique injury, the Blue Jays lineup is stacked, and yet Severino cut through them like he was playing MLB The Show on the lowest difficulty setting. Over the course of his five innings of work, he generated 15 whiffs and kept opposing hitters to just a .139 xBA. His cutter/slider (Statcast is confused as to exactly what it is) and changeup in particular were on point, accounting for 13 whiffs.
Luis Severino, Wicked Slider and Changeup. pic.twitter.com/NrA2x6E2pr— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 15, 2022
That said, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for the young right-hander. Toronto threatened early, with a Bo Bichette double putting a runner in scoring position with one out for the ever-dangerous Guerrero Jr. Severino, however, struck him out. A fastball inside got away from Sevy and plunked Lourdes Gurriel Jr., but he got Raimel Tapia to line out to third to end the inning.
Catcher Alejandro Kirk opened up the second with a swinging bunt single that had a launch angle of -62 degrees and an exit velocity of just 54.8 mph. He would reach second when Cavan Biggio walked. After Santiago Espinal flew out to center field, Bradley Zimmer reached on a rare error by Anthony Rizzo, who dropped a throw from second baseman DJ LeMahieu on a soft groundball. With the bases loaded, one out, and the top of the order coming up, the Blue Jays were set to open the game up. George Springer, however, hit a fly ball to right field for an easy out, but he did not put it deep enough for the slow Kirk to tag from third, and Bichette grounded out to second to end the inning.
Severino opened the top of the third by handing Guerrero his second strikeout of the game. From that point on, he allowed only one other baserunner, walking Kirk to lead off the top of the fourth. He retired the final six batters he faced, three on strikeouts, and he capped off his night by doing something historic. By punching out Guerrero to end the fifth, Severino became just the first pitcher in the first baseman’s young career to strike him out three times in one game.
Luis Severino strikes out Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for the 3rd time tonight and he's PUMPED pic.twitter.com/DrzgHxjXfl— Yankees Videos (@snyyankees) April 15, 2022
I think I speak for everybody when I say, “I missed the Sevy strikeout scream, and I hope to see a lot more of it this year.”
What made Severino’s performance all the more exciting was the fact that Kevin Gausman was dealing for the Blue Jays. He retired the first seven batters he faced, although he needed a little help from Guerrero when Rizzo laced a line drive 109.2 mph right at him. Against the first seven batters in the lineup, he recorded nine strikeouts and surrendered just two hits. But tonight, his Achilles’ heel was...the bottom of the Yankee lineup, who went 4-for-4 against him despite the fact that the Yankees No. 8 and 9 spots in the order entered the game a combined 3-for-42 on the season.
With one out in the top of the third, Isiah Kiner-Falefa hit the ball twice — a fact that Phil Hughes brought to the attention of the YES Network broadcast — as he laced a single over the head of Espinal at third base. Gausman then balked him over to second, which allowed him to score when Gurriel bobbled Jose Trevino’s bloop single to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead. Despite the fact that Trevino reached second on the misplay, that was all they would get, as Josh Donaldson struck out and Aaron Judge flew out to center field to end the inning.
The Yankees offense would once again be stifled in the fourth inning, but in the fifth, IKF came back to the plate and reignited the offense. He laced a groundball off the glove of a diving Bichette for a two-out double. Trevino then hit another bloop single that found green in the outfield, and Kiner-Falefa came back around to score to extend the lead to 2.
Across the sixth and seventh, the Blue Jays tried to cut the lead down while the Yankees looked for an insurance run, and while both teams threatened, nobody was able to a run across until the bottom of the eighth inning. Judge opened up the inning with a double, then advanced to third when Rizzo grounded out to first base, and finally scored on the contact play when Giancarlo Stanton grounded out to Bichette at short to give the Yankees a 3-0 lead.
Unfortunately, it became immediately obvious in the top of the ninth that the Yankees needed every run. To say that Aroldis Chapman had absolutely nothing working for him tonight would be an understatement: facing the bottom of the order, he walked all three batters he faced, throwing just four strikes total. Aaron Boone got Michael King up in a hurry, and after buying as much time as possible, yanked his closer from the game after the minimum of three batters.
With the bases loaded, nobody out, and the top of the order coming up, things looked grim, and the script appeared to be written for Guerrero to absolve his first career sombrero with a game-winning hit in the ninth. But King came out with a vengeance, striking out Springer on three pitches and getting Bichette to hit an easy liner to LeMahieu, who threw the ball to Rizzo to double up Matt Chapman to end the game and keep Guerrero on the bench. Five pitches, five strikes, and three outs — a truly royal outing.
Luis Severino records the win, becoming the first Yankee starting pitcher to record a win in 2022, while Kevin Gausman is tagged with the loss. Thanks to cleaning up Chapman’s mess, King earns the first save of his career, as he continues to show in the early going that he deserves more high-leverage innings this year. With the win, the Yankees improve to 4-3 on the season, and although we’re not scoreboard watching yet, it does give them a share of first place in the tight AL East.
The Yankees return to action tomorrow, making their first road trip of the year as they head down to Camden Yards to face the Baltimore Orioles. Jordan Montgomery gets the ball for the Yankees, having received the go-ahead after being hit by a line drive during Sunday night’s game against the Red Sox; Jordan Lyles will oppose him. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 PM, and as always, we will have all the coverage you need right here.