Karpin: Yanks Have Found Their Ace

The Yankees have had quite a run at baseball’s poker table this season. So far, they’ve pulled all the right cards with the influx of young talent that has come up from the minors this season and they’ve played “Protex-Us Hold ‘Em” with their top prospects, but while they’ve raised the ante on a surprising season, they have also found their “ace.”

Right hander Luis Severino tossed seven strong innings, giving up three hits and no earned runs while striking out nine, to key a 9-5 Yankees’ win over the Cincinnati Reds and a sweep of the brief two-game series. “I’m taking the mound every time thinking about going six, seven,” he said after the game.

The win gave the Bombers’ their second straight series victory after going six weeks without one. “It’s an important series, really important,” Yankees Manager Joe Girardi said. “We still have 63 games to go but these are all important games.”

The 23-year old, who has earned the moniker of “ace” had all his pitches on display as he dominated the Reds’ hitters with an array of fastballs, change-ups and slider. “He’s nasty, man,” said Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart after the game.

Severino has literally come a long way from a year ago. Last season, he struggled mightily as a starter posting a 0-8 record with an 8.50 ERA in 11 starts which prompted the Yankees to move him to the bullpen where he was more effective. That created a controversy as to whether or not to use Severino as a starting pitcher. Looks like the Yankees made the right choice. (They’ve made a number of right choices over the past calendar year or so)

So what is the difference from a year ago? Girardi believes it’s the development of a key weapon for Severino, his change-up. “He not only throws it to left-handers, he throws it to right-handers as well, which gives him another weapon,” the Yankee manager said. “To me, it seems like he has a lot of confidence in it.”

Severino came out firing he threw his first eight pitches for strikes. Reds first-baseman Joey Votto seemed to be the only Cincy hitter who had any success against the Yankee youngster. Votto had two of the three hits off Severino and reached base in all four of his plate appearances.

A trade mark of Severino this season is the ability to keep his velocity into the later innings and today was no different as he registered 97 and 98 on the radar gun in his seventh and final inning. Girardi said, “I think the guys that really put up big numbers as pitchers are really able to do that.”

Severino kept the Reds off the board for six innings to extend his consecutive innings scoreless streak to 17 before Cincinnati finally broke through in the seventh. Didi Gregorius’ fielding error set up a mild rally by the Reds to start the seventh. Reds third-baseman Eugenio Suarez lined a double into the left field corner to score a run and he eventually scored on a ground out. Both runs were unearned, Severino’s ERA dropped to 3.03 and he impressed the manager in the opposing dugout. “He’s good,” said Reds skipper Bryan Price. “That’s a difference maker. That’s certainly a guy you can build a rotation around.”

The Yankees’ youth was on full display in this one.

In the third, two out singles by Ronald Torreyes and Brett Gardner gave the clutch hitting Clint Frazier a chance and he didn’t disappoint as the red-headed youngster muscled an RBI single into short right field for a 1-0 lead. The same trio combined again in the fifth with Frazier driving in his second run with his second hit.

Frazier continues to show an ability to hit in the clutch. With RISP, the 22-year old is 6-for-14 with ten runs batted in. “They’re (sic) doing everything they can to get on base. They’re running balls out and giving me good opportunities to try to push runs across the board,” Frazier said as he continues to make it more difficult for the Yankee brass to take him out of the lineup.

Yanks added two runs in the sixth and broke the game open with a five-spot in the seventh as some of the veterans took the cue from the young players. Gregorius hit a three-run homer into the right field stands and newly acquired Todd Frazier got into the act with his first home run as a Yankee. “In the pinstripes hitting a home run on your home turf, basically,” he said after the game. “You live an hour away. It’s pretty memorable. I know I’ll be getting a lot of texts from all my Yankee fan friends. It was cool. My parents are happy. Everybody’s happy.”

The elder Frazier (who is only 31 years old) was the “third” piece of the trade with the White Sox but the Yankees may get something out of a player that’s seeking a contract and would love to play here next season. I always felt that Frazier’s numbers were skewed by being on a bad team. He’s better than a .200 hitter and is a legitimate power threat. A change of scenery may benefit him and the Yankees.

With Severino pitching like an ace; Jordan Montgomery continuing to develop into a reliable starter and a veteran like C.C. Sabathia who is winning on his experience and pitching intellect, the Yankees suddenly have three starting pitchers who can give them a chance to win. Back that up with this deep bullpen and who knows but one thing is certain. The Yankees will be in some important games down the stretch.

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