Hoping for a Gem From Their Starter, Yankees Are Instead on the Receiving End - Freeverything.com

Hoping for a Gem From Their Starter, Yankees Are Instead on the Receiving End


MINNEAPOLIS — When the American League wild-card playoff is held in three weeks, almost certainly in Oakland or at Yankee Stadium, Aaron Boone may have a decision on his plate that the rookie manager never expected to have to make.

Who will be his starting pitcher?

He could turn to the reliable J.A. Happ, or the spirited Masahiro Tanaka.

But the pitcher whose hands Boone would most dearly love to place his team’s fate in is Luis Severino. That was clear in Boone’s plaintive voice on Wednesday before he sent Severino to the mound against the Minnesota Twins.

“The fact is,” Boone said, “when Sevy’s right, he can match up with anyone in the sport. When he’s going well, he can go toe to toe with them. To have that weapon available come October is huge, and hopefully tonight is the start of him really, really building some momentum.”

It was the third time in two questions about Severino that Boone used the word “hopefully.”

The way Severino has pitched over the last two months — a 6.83 E.R.A. and 13 home runs allowed in his previous 11 starts entering Wednesday — has left the Yankees with little to do but hope their two-time All-Star pitcher gets straightened out.

They have given him extra rest, provided plenty of encouragement and, in the days since his last start — a two-and-two-thirds inning implosion at Oakland — ensured that he and catcher Gary Sanchez would no longer get their signals crossed.

But in a sign of how the Yankees’ fortunes have turned, on a night when Severino took baby steps in the right direction he was nearly overshadowed by the indignity of his team’s being no-hit. Twins right-hander Jake Odorizzi kept the Yankees hitless for seven and one-third innings in a 3-1 victory.

The loss dropped the Yankees, who have 16 games remaining, to 10 games behind the Boston Red Sox in the American League East and reduced their lead over the Oakland Athletics in the wild-card race to one game.

It also marked a dispiriting end to a 4-5 trip in which they continue to look less and less like team with serious World Series aspirations. It was also the third time in less than two weeks that a pitcher carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning against the Yankees.

“Baseball will punch you in the mouth every now and then,” Boone said. “We’re clearly facing a little bit of adversity right now and we’ll embrace it and we’ll be better for it.”

The Yankees know Odorizzi well from his days in Tampa Bay: In 2016, he carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning against them only to lose 2-1 on a home run by Starlin Castro — the Yankees’ only hit.

On Wednesday, Odorizzi walked three batters, struck out five and made a superb defensive play — sliding to his knees to gather a fifth-inning dribbler to the left of the mound by Didi Gregorius and firing a strike to first in time to retire him.

The Yankees had a number of hard-hit balls — Aaron Hicks clubbed a drive to center that surely would have carried out of Yankee Stadium, left fielder Robbie Grossman made a sliding catch on Luke Voit’s liner, and Miguel Andujar’s liner to center hung up long enough for outfielder Jake Cave to snare it. But none fell until Greg Bird’s one-out double into the left-center gap in the eighth.

“I knew he would be swinging early, so I just wanted to get him to hit it off the end,” said Odorizzi, who threw Bird a rare two-seam fastball. “He got enough of it to put it out there — stayed true, didn’t slice, put it in the perfect spot. If I threw him a four-seamer, he probably puts it in the seats.”

The hit brought home Voit, who had walked with one out. It was the 120th and final pitch thrown by Odorizzi, who received a standing ovation on his way back to the dugout and acknowledged the crowd with a tip of his cap and a broad wave.

Odorizzi’s exit was a marked contrast to Severino’s departure in the sixth. When Boone strode to the mound to lift Severino, with the Twins having taken a 1-0 lead on three crisp hits, the pitcher did not appear pleased, having a few words with the manager before making the walk back to the dugout.

“I asked him to let me get one batter and he said that was it,” Severino said.

Severino, who had thrown just 83 pitches, was asked if he had hoped to sway Boone.

“Maybe,” Severino said. “Sometimes you talk with your manager and you let him know that you’ve got confidence to get out that batter and you change his mind.”

Boone said he did not mind Severino’s pleadings.

“He’s in the fight right now, and I respect the hell out of that,” Boone said. “He wants the ball and he wants to get out of that situation; just the way we’re lined up I felt like it was the right move at the time.”

Still, even with the team’s best relievers rested and a day off on Thursday, it seems hard to imagine that the Severino that had a 1.98 E.R.A. on July 1 would not have been given more latitude.

Nevertheless, there were clear signs of improvement for Severino on Wednesday. He worked quickly and efficiently, allowing just one hit before the sixth inning.

But he was not dominant as he had been earlier in the season — with performances like a complete-game, 10-strikeout shutout of the Houston Astros or a shutout of the Red Sox on two hits over six and two-thirds innings.

Severino struck out five on Wednesday, and did not walk a batter in five and two-thirds innings. The only run he allowed came when Max Kepler sent a one-out single through the vacated left side of the infield and then Ehire Adrianza hit a run-scoring double into the right-field corner in the sixth inning. Joe Mauer followed with a crisp single, but Adrianza was held at third.

After Jorge Polanco struck out when he could not check his swing on a fastball that sailed to the backstop — allowing Mauer to advance to second, but holding Adrianza at third — Boone turned to David Robertson, who retired Eddie Rosario on a comebacker but gave up two runs in the seventh.

Though few of the Twins had seen much of Severino — in his previous two starts, including in last year’s wild-card playoff, he lasted just three and one-third innings — he received some belated encouragement from across the way.

“He’s going to be perfectly fine moving forward,” said Odorizzi, noting that Severino’s slider was more erratic than it had been. “He’s not that far off. He just needs one game for him to click with his off-speed pitches, because his fastball is always going to be there.”

Or so the Yankees hope.



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