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How past Yankees starters have rebounded from opening frame exits

Jhony Brito gets the ball for the first time after a disastrous Thursday night. Fortunately, recent history shows us that it’s possible to rebound with a quality start.

New York Yankees v Boston Red Sox Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Last Thursday night will almost certainly go down as one of the worst nights of Jhony Brito’s baseball career, and may even wind up being the worst.

After going five innings in each of his first two starts and allowing just one run on five hits, Brito could not get out of the top of the first. Edouard Julien and Carlos Correa led off the game with a pair of singles, and then Byron Buxton walked to load the bases with nobody out. Trevor Larnach offered a brief respite on a sacrifice fly, but everything snowballed from there for the young righty. Jose Miranda, Donovan Solano, and Christian Vázquez each doubled around a Nick Gordon groundout, Michael A. Taylor went deep, and before you knew it, the Twins had a 7-0 lead and Brito’s night was done.

Tonight, Brito undertakes what may be the most difficult task of his career: putting all that behind him, taking the mound once more, and attacking an Angels lineup that includes two of the greatest players of all-time: Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout. Fortunately for him, he’s not the first Yankees starter in recent years to completely melt down in the first inning, only to get the ball once again a few days later. How did they handle their second starts?

Phil Hughes, 2013

In 2013, gone were the days where Phil Hughes was expected to be the ace of the Yankees’ staff for years to come. At that point, he was three years removed from his All-Star season and four years removed from his dominant stretch as Mariano Rivera’s setup man for the 2009 World Series championship team. While Hughes still showed flashes of brilliance that showed why he was once a top prospect — he did make seven starts in 2013 of at least seven or more innings while giving up two or fewer runs — he also also surrendered five or more runs on eight different occasions; the only consistent thing about his performance was its inconsistency.

The low point for Hughes in that rollercoaster of a year came on May 15th. Facing a Seattle Mariners team that would only win 71 games, Hughes recorded just two outs while giving up seven runs on six hits, including a grand slam to former teammate Raúl Ibañez. It’s hard to find a way for things to have gone worse.

Six days later, Hughes returned to the mound, this time facing the Baltimore Orioles in Camden Yards. He put together a quality outing, allowing just two runs — both a pair of solo shots by Chris Dickerson to lead off an inning — on just five hits, striking out five and walking two across six frames. He also demonstrated some tenacity in escaping a fifth-inning jam during a tie game to keep the score at 2-2.

It was not Hughes’ fault that the Yankees lost this game. Their lineup was made out of Robinson Canó, Brett Gardner, and duct tape, and they failed to hang more than two runs off Miguel Gonzalez and the O’s bullpen. A walk-off blast in the 10th by Nate McLouth off forgotten lefty Vidal Nuño finished off the L.

Nathan Eovaldi, 2015

It was supposed to be a great day for Nathan Eovaldi, who was making his return to Miami after being traded to the Bronx the previous winter. Instead, the word “disaster” isn’t strong enough to cover what happened on June 16th. After Dee Strange-Gordon bounced out to start the game, Derek Dietrich, Christian Yelich, Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Justin Bour, and J.T. Realmuto knocked consecutive singles before Adeiny Hechavarria cleared the bases with a triple. Miami starter David Phelps (dealt as part of the Eovaldi trade) recorded the second out of the inning, and then a Strange-Gordon single and Dietrich double plated two more runners — ending Eovaldi’s night after just 36 pitches.

In need of a starter and desiring to not give Eovaldi the opportunity to wallow, Joe Girardi sent him back out on just three days’ rest, and boy, did Nasty Nate deliver on Old-Timers’ Day. He spun six scoreless innings against the Tigers, with the only two runs charged against his line coming from the two batters he faced in the top of the seventh before being pulled for Bryan Mitchell*. Even more impressively, Eovaldi allowed just three hits and one walk. It’s harder to find a better rebound from disaster than that.

*The Yanks were able to go to Mitchell instead of one of their top arms because they were up 13-0 at the time. So Eovaldi basically got to experience the polar opposite of his last start.

Luis Severino, 2017 postseason

In many ways, the 2017 was a dream come true for Luis Severino. After experiencing the patented sophomore slump in 2016 to the point where he was optioned to Triple-A and only worked out of the bullpen when he returned, he emerged as a veritable ace in the American League. His 2.98 ERA and 5.6 fWAR resulted in an All-Star appearance and a third-place finish in the AL Cy Young vote.

Unfortunately for Sevy, his postseason debut did not go nearly as smoothly. Brian Dozier led off the game with a solo home run, and after Joe Mauer popped out to third base and Jorge Polanco walked, Eddie Rosario drilled another one into the seats to give Minnesota a 3-0 lead. An Eduardo Escobar single and a Max Kepler double ended the righty’s night, as Chad Green came on to pitch with runners on second and third, one away.

Of course, that game ended very nicely for the Yankees. Just four batters into the bottom of the first, the Yankees tied it at three (thanks to a Didi Gregorius home run); they would take the lead in the bottom of the second, and from there, the lineup and bullpen did more than enough to secure the win and give Sevy a shot at redemption.

And boy, did Sevy get his redemption. The 2017 Yankees quickly found themselves once again in a hole, dropping the first two against Cleveland in the ALDS. Masahiro Tanaka outdueled Carlos Carrasco in a 1-0 victory at Yankee Stadium to keep the Yankees alive, and then, on October 9th, Severino stepped back on the bump in an effort to force a winner-takes-all Game 5. Facing a Cleveland lineup that ranked third in the AL in runs/game and OPS+, he twirled seven innings of three-run ball, striking out nine and walking just one.

Thanks to Sevy’s resurgence, the Yankees took the series back to Cleveland, where they forced their way into the ALCS.

Masahiro Tanaka, 2019

Perhaps this one is a bit unfair. The first Major League Baseball game played in London was absolutely bonkers, as both Masahiro Tanaka and Red Sox starter Rick Porcello were bounced in the first inning on June 29th (in fact, Tanaka technically was the better starter that day, as he got a full two outs). It was a game that saw a combined 30 runs cross the plate and required seven relievers from each team.

Extenuating circumstances aside, however, this is not likely a start Tanaka wants to remember. Six of the eight batters he faced reached base, and all of those six came around to score. Michael Chavis capped the frame with a three-run smash to dead center.

The Yankees went from leading 6-0 to being tied 6-6 in the blink of an eye. Chad Green mercifully stopped the bleeding, and the Yankees offense put a larger hurting on the Boston staff than the Sox did to the New York pitchers. Needless to say though, Tanaka did not get the win.

If there's one thing Tanaka was always good at, though, it was bouncing back from a difficult outing. Less than a week later, the All-Star righty took the mound against the Rays at Tropicana Field. While he was far from perfect — a pair of home runs, plus a couple of baserunners that pre-mustache Nestor Cortes allowed to score in the seventh, charged him with four runs on the night — he did more than enough for the Yankees to earn the road victory.