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Yankees 4, Dodgers 8: Nightmare first inning dooms New York

Luis Severino never really had it as he put the Yankees in a 6-0 hole, and the Dodgers are just too good.

New York Yankees v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Gleyber Torres lined the first pitch of the game into left-center for a single, and that was the closest thing the Yankees had to momentum all night. Luis Severino was dreadful in his third start of the season, and the only New York hitters to make an impact were Josh Donaldson and Giancarlo Stanton, fresh off the IL. All in all, the Yankees dropped the opener in this matchup of baseball’s best brands, 8-4 to the Dodgers.

The game really all came down to Severino, and particularly his first inning. Mookie Betts took him deep to lead off the Dodgers’ first, and that was discouraging but it’s also Mookie Betts; he kinda does that. Unfortunately, it was less of a “Mookie Betts is good” problem, and more of a “Luis Severino stunk today” problem.

Two more Dodgers—Max Muncy and J.D. Martinez—went deep off Severino as they plated five more runs in the first and a seventh run in the third. I’m crossing my fingers that Sevy isn’t injured, because he really didn’t have much of anything tonight. His fastball was about two miles per hour below his season average, in that disastrous first inning he seemed scared to throw his slider, and in general everything was pretty flat.

I talk a lot about not making it easy for hitters—your misses have to be close. Two dozen of Severino’s fastballs were middle-middle, and a good offense like the Dodgers will crush those every day. The few fastballs out of the zone were so clearly out that it’s not a challenge, the misses weren’t close.

Even when Severino was getting outs, the location was way off. Freddie Freeman hit this ball to the warning track, and honestly it should have been worse:

Severino’s performance is particularly painful when viewed with the context that the Yankee bullpen did their job. Tommy Kahnle made his 2023 debut throwing a clean inning, Ryan Weber allowed a run (a Betts homer, but again, it happens) but recorded six outs, and Albert Abreu was also clean in the eighth. At the start of a series, the bullpen needed a big night and they pulled it off ... the problem was the club was so far behind that the trio of relievers just bought time.

Clayton Kershaw made two mistakes, both of them to returning Yankees:

I’m a disciple of Jeff Sullivan in that I believe the thing that really kills teams is having below-replacement level players. These guys eat away at wins, are automatic outs in the lineup, and they make the other team’s job so easy. Neither Josh Donaldson nor Giancarlo Stanton are at their MVP levels at this point in their careers, but I think both can be average to well above average offensively, and replacing two 90 wRC+ hitters with two 110 or better wRC+ makes this lineup so much deeper.

Donaldson added a two-run shot in the ninth, following Stanton’s walk. The two returning Yankees did almost all the damage, as the top three in the lineup went a combined 1-for-12 with five strikeouts, although in their defense, Hunter Wendelstedt’s zone was awful wide.

One bad inning can often cost you the ballgame, it just particularly annoys me when its the first inning. On the one hand, you can say to yourself that your team has all night to come back, on the other, being down so early does change the approach of your entire team. You have to be more aggressive with the bullpen, your hitters will often feel more pressure to “do it all” themselves, and if you’re recapping it’s often hard to stay engaged.

As always, the silver lining here is that we play tomorrow too. Gerrit Cole, he of the 2.93 ERA. gets the ball against Michael Grove, so if nothing else the Yankees have the pitching advantage on paper. It’s Fox’s primetime Saturday game, coming at 7:15 Eastern time.

Box Score