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The Yankees will need a big contribution from Luis Severino

Severino did enough to get past the Twins, but the young ace could decide the series with a strong start at home

MLB: ALCS-Workouts Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Luis Severino started the deciding game of the Yankees sweep in the ALDS, tossing four innings of shutout ball before handing it over to a series of relievers to close the game out. Severino got into a couple of jams, including a bases-loaded, no outs situation in the second inning; those situations could have shifted momentum heavily if he hadn’t gotten out unharmed. He was the definition of “bend but don’t break,” missing with location in several spots but buckling down to get big outs and put up some zeros on the board.

He was sharp enough, and the Yankees gladly took the performance. But they will need a lot more in his next start.

Severino is slated to go in Game Three of the ALCS as the series shifts back to the Bronx, facing off against possible Cy Young winner and definite postseason ace Gerrit Cole. Much has been made about the advantages of home field for this particular series, but even that may not matter enough when going up against a pitcher as dominant as Cole. The Yankees may be able to work the count against Cole and get him out earlier than the Rays were able to, but they’ll likely need someone to neutralize the Astros’ potent lineup while they do so in order to keep the game from getting out of hand.

It’s also important that Severino steps up to preserve another advantage the Yankees have in this series: their bullpen. New York will be coming off of a rest day on Monday, but will have to play three straight games and will likely piece together a bullpen game with an opener in Game Four. Their other designated starters, Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton, typically don’t go deep into the game due to poor matchups the third time through a lineup as well, so fatigue may play a factor in the ‘pen by the time the rotation flips back around to Tanaka for Game Five if Severino can’t go deep.

The Yankees played it cautious in removing Severino after the fourth inning in Minnesota for multiple reasons, including his pitch count relative to how far he’s been stretched out after making his season debut just under a month ago. He threw a season-high 83 pitches his last time out, and Aaron Boone said that they were comfortable sending him out for anywhere between 75-90 pitches in that outing. By this point Sevy should have his arm built back enough to go into triple-digits if he’s dealing, and hopefully have better control of his command.

If he isn’t dealing, Boone will have little choice but to flex his biggest strength and go to the ‘pen. He’s been aggressive with making the call so far and it’s been encouraging to see after he was too hesitant in the 2018 playoffs. But for Severino, this will be his best chance yet to flip the script on his postseason record so far. He’s pitched beyond the fourth just twice in seven attempts, going 4.2 innings in Game Six of the 2017 ALCS and dealing seven strong in Game Four of that year’s ALDS. He will be the underdog in his own stadium, at a point where he can take over the narrative for this series. Let’s see what he can do.