The Yankees need their ace, Masahiro Tanaka, to step up more than ever with Luis Severino joining CC Sabathia on the disabled list.
Severino left Friday night’s game in the third inning with an apparent injury, and he was placed on the DL Saturday morning with a right triceps strain. He went just 2 2/3 against the White Sox, and allowed seven runs on seven hits, with four walks, two strikeouts, and a hit-by-pitch, and fell to 0-6 on the season.
Yankees Manager Joe Girardi said of Severino’s troubles being linked to the injury and this being time Severino can use to regroup, “Obviously, he has struggled, it’s not so much his command, but more his control. I mean, he struggled with his command, again, not his control. He’s throwing strikes, but he’s not locating strikes, and to me, that’s first and foremost what he has to do better, and maybe five or seven days without throwing a baseball will help, I hope it does.”
Severino said he felt something in the second inning, and he said it didn’t hurt enough for him to ask out of the game.
Tanaka is the ace of the staff, and it needs to be nearly an automatic win whenever he takes the mound. Tanaka has been treated like an ace since he arrived, but he was never the one sure thing every fifth day. That is a whole different type of pressure and it will be interesting to see if he is up to it.
In six of his first seven starts of the season, he has allowed two runs or fewer, but to show how this season has gone for the Yankees, his record is just 1-0 with a 3.11 ERA.
Tanaka ranks third in the American League in both WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) at 0.93, and in walks per 9 innings pitched, at 1.36. He is ninth in opponents’batting average at .209.
Tanaka is set to pitch the series finale against Chicago on Sunday, and he has to do a lot better than he did in his last start on Tuesday against Kansas City. He allowed six runs on seven hits in seven innings, and he got a no-decision as the Yankees pulled it out to win 10-7.
The Yankees rotation after Tanaka is questionable, as Michael Pineda has not been good of late and Nathan Eovaldi is inconsistent.
Ivan nova is currently in Sabathia’s spot in the rotation, and it is yet to be determined who will take Severino’s spot, which will come up on Wednesday night at Arizona. Girardi said of that, “We’ll worry about Wednesday on Wednesday. We’ve got to get to Wednesday.”
Nova’s second start came on Saturday afternoon against Chicago, and he pitched pretty well. He allowed just one run (a solo home run by Todd Frazier) on four hits, a walk, and struck out two in 5 2/3 innings. He went an inning longer than his first start of the season, on Monday against Kansas City, when he went 4 2/3 innings, and surrendered one run on six hits, with a walk and three strikeouts, and like in this one, the lone run came via a homer, to Alex Gordon.
Nova said of how pleased he is with how he’s thrown the ball since going back into the rotation, “I feel really good. Every time I throw a game like that, it’s gonna make me more excited and more excited to go out there and really excited the way that everything has gone so far.”
Girardi said of Nova getting groundball outs, “That’s really important, that’s his bread and butter. You think about the one run they scored (on the Frazier home run), he left the ball up, the only mistake he really made today.”
On how he couldn’t ask for more from Nova in his first two starts, Girardi said, “No, you really couldn’t. He gave us almost six innings today, and didn’t want to push him too far because his last start he worked pretty hard, don’t think you could ask for much more.”
Of course, while there is necessary concern about the strength of the Yankees’ rotation, the comfort comes in their offense and bullpen.
If the Yankees can hit like they have for most of this homestand, and with the Big Three of Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, and Dellin Betances set up in the bullpen, they could still win plenty of games.
The formula will be to get a lead by the sixth/seventh innings, and hand it to the three fireballers, and that is exactly what happened on Saturday, as they all appeared in a game for the first time to close out a win.
After Nova left, with a 2-1 lead, and after he walked Todd Frazier with two outs in the sixth, Betances came in and struck out Melky Cabrera to get out of the jam.
Girardi said he started thinking of when he would bring in his top relievers around the fourth inning, and he said of turning in Betances with two outs in the sixth, “No, Melky’s had a ton of success off of Nova, and I was hoping he would get through Frazier, but he walked him. I was okay with that, he can’t get in there in a situation like that, 2-1, but I knew I had Dellin up, so it was on my mind, and if I needed four outs from him, I wouldn’t hesitate.”
Betances stayed in for the seventh, and struck out the side in order.
Miller followed in the eighth and opened the inning by striking out Austin Jackson. He then allowed a single to Adam Eaton, then Jimmy Rollins grounded into a force out, and he struck out Jose Abreu to get out of the inning.
Chapman came on in the ninth for his third appearance of the season. Like his prior outings, there was an electricity when he hit the mound, and he responded by getting two strikeouts to close out the 2-1 win.
Betances, Miller, and Chapman got strikeouts on eight of their 10 outs recorded.
Betances said of there being a friendly competition among the three of them as to who can get the most strikeouts, “We try to do the best we can, obviously we joke around here and there, but we’re just trying to hold the lead, give the team a chance to win.”
Miller said of strikeouts getting the crowd excited, “What did Max Scherzer say the other day, strikeouts are sexy. Strikeouts are fun, the fans like them, they’re like home runs, they’re exciting plays. They’re not the level of that, but it’s something fans can get excited for, so I think when Dellin gets four in a row like that, especially coming in with a runner on and doing it over two innings, it’s exciting and fun to watch, and it’s something the fans are going to love. But, ultimately, I think Nova didn’t really strike too many guys out today, and he was just as fun to watch.”
Girardi said of the big three coming out of the bullpen, “You feel good about when you bring in three guys like that in a row, and they did a really good job.”
Betances said of the bullpen’s dominance, “Obviously, I want to be out there whenever we’re winning. I want to go out there and help the team win. Today was the first time we were all out there, and it just shows what we can do. I think all the bullpen guys have been doing tremendous, it’s not just about us three.”
Chapman said of the bullpen through an interpreter, “We’re ready to take on this kind of work. This is the outcome we expect to have. It’s a really nice combination between Dellin, Miller, and I, and the other guys in the bullpen. This is our job, and anytime that we go out there, we try to do our job.”
Miller said of being part of it for the first time, “It’s a good win, Nova was awesome. The bottom half of the lineup came through big time to start the game against a really good pitcher (Jose Quintana). This is a really good team, a win no matter how you get is a big accomplishment and we have the chance to win a series tomorrow.
“Everybody kind of picked up their end of the bargain today. I think the guys grinded out a couple runs early, and Nova ran with it, he was awesome. Obviously, Dellin (Betances) came in and struck out all four guys he faced. That’s usually what he does on a regular basis and I, unfortunately, had a base runner, tried to get out of it, succeeded, and then Chapman came and slammed the door.”
Miller said of Nova’s performance, “Nova was awesome, I think that should be the story today. It seemed like every pitch he threw was a groundball. Todd Frazier took him for a first-pitch homer, but he was incredible. He was as good as they come and he won the game.”
Miller said of each star reliever’s performance building on each other, “I think we try to feed off each other a little bit, but ultimately we’re trying to get the hitter at the plate out. I’m concerned with trying to get on the same page with Mac (catcher Brian McCann) and scouting reports and what we want to do and trying to get ahead as quick as I can. When I’m out there, I’m not thinking about what Dellin did. I enjoy watching him, I’m pulling for him, I know he’s going to do a good job, he always does, but I think by the time I’m out there, I’ve got bigger problems, and I’m trying to figure out how to get the guy at the plate out.”