CC Sabathia is a seasoned veteran, and Sonny Gray has been a solid acquisition but now there’s little doubt that Luis Severino is the ace.
Severino allowed two runs on three hits in eight innings on Friday night in the Yankees 8-2 win over the Orioles. “He was just Sevey tonight,” said Joe Girardi, who won his 900th game as Yankee manager.
The eight innings tied a season high for the righty starter. Severino has blossomed as a starter after struggling in the rotation in 2016. “Whether it’s a guy that you’ve seen do this before or not, I think it’s been just impressive what he’s done, the way he’s pitched all year long for us.” Girardi said. “We really believe that he was always a starter. Larry had a huge belief in his heart and he did some things the last couple of weeks of spring training, and Sevey’s been a different guy. The guy that he thought he could be. And he’s just continued to get better and better.”
Girardi isn’t afraid to lift his starters early as evidenced by his removal of Sabathia and Jaime Garcia in the fifth inning of games against Tampa Bay earlier in the week. Only once has Severino failed to pitch five innings. He came into Friday’s start tied for fourth in the AL with 13 starts of at least seven innings pitched, and added another tonight.
Severino is now 13-6 and also received no decisions in a 4-1 win at Fenway when he kept the Yankees in striking distance by giving up one run over seven innings, and a 3-1 win at Texas last week when he again gave up one run in seven innings. He’s made 15 starts where he’s given up zero or one run. Severino pointed to command of his pitches as a key factor to his success. When asked what it would mean to start in the Wild Card game or Game 1 of the ALDS, Severino said, “It would be an honor.”
Severino has been mowing hitters down and tied Melido Perez (1992) for fifth on the Yankees list of strikeouts in a season with 218. Only Ron Guidry, Jack Chesbro, CC Sabathia and David Cone are ahead of him.
So has this improvement from raw pitcher to Yankee ace been mechanical or maturity driven?
“When you talk mechanical, I think location a lot of times is mechanical,” Girardi said. “I think his location has been much better.”
The manager went on to say that he left his fastball up too much in 2016, and the growth of his change up and the consistency of his slider. And the maturity has been a plus as well. “I think it’s him going through a rough season, realizing, ok, maybe I’m not as far as I thought I was, I gotta make a few adjustments because the league has adjusted to me and that’s part of the game. I give him a lot of credit. He went to work and he’s been outstanding.”
Whether Severino’s All-Star season has been a product of maturity or mechanical fixing, the Yankees have found their ace.