Aaron Boone was content after the Yankees took two of three from the Red Sox in the Bronx to open their season. The manager saw good at bats despite stranding 11 runners, through eight innings Sunday night. The starting pitching and bullpen are off to a good start, but that ninth inning Sunday was a reminder.
Aaron Judge (despite an 11 pitch at bat), Giancarlo Stanton, and Joey Gallo all went down on strikes against the Red Sox lefty closer Jake Diekman. You expect better with the Yankees a run down in their last at bat in the Bronx.
“Looking at the at bats as a whole this series, I feel like we had a lot of good at bats,” Boone said.
Next up, the Toronto Blue Jays and a consensus pick to win it all in October. More importantly, the next four games for the Yankees in the Bronx against the Jays is an early test of the schedule. The Red Sox and Blue Jays in the same division, two of the three teams the Yankees failed to conquer last year, caused them to come up short.
Those feisty Tampa Bay Rays are on the agenda. They are the other team with a different complexion of pitching and minus a few from their AL East division winning lineup that conquered the Yankees.
Overall, though, a good start in the Bronx. Though Stanton and Anthony Rizzo hit home runs, accounting for all four runs in a win Saturday, the constant reminder is Judge, Stanton, and Gallo. All three are a constant threat in the lineup. All three, a constant threat of striking out and costing the Yankees another win in their division.
“We hit some balls on the screws for outs,” Boone said. “We want to create those opportunities. We couldn’t get that big one to break anything open. Overall, I like how we’re swinging the bats.”
However the Yankees need more production from Gleyber Torres, Aaron Hicks, Anthony Rizzo, and Isiah-Kiner Faiefa. You can see the resurgence of DJ LeMahieu is just a matter of time.
Boone has utilized an expanded bullpen that has done their part after Jordan Montgomery went down last night after getting drilled in the leg.
What stands out from the rotation is Luis Severino with an arsenal of pitches, following Gerrit Cole who still struggles with giving up the home run ball. Severino is passing the early test and has come back from Tommy John surgery. Saturday afternoon, it worked to perfection in his first start since 2019 and the Yankees bullpen did not allow a hit in six innings as Stanton and Rizzo hit home runs in consecutive days.
Except for a single, double and two-run homer to Alex Verdugo in the second inning, Severino settled in and was removed after throwing 65 pitches in three innings. There was a 12-pitch at bat to Christian Vazquez and a cutter hit to the mound, putting an end to the inning.
There has to be optimism with this first start because an effective Severino that follows Cole in the rotation gives the Yankees a good one-two punch. The next start, Thursday night against a potent Blue Jays lineup will provide another test.
Take this to another level. If Severino can continue this comeback with an effective cutter to go along with a slider, fastball, and changeup, then the Yankees may not need to be concerned about looking for another viable arm in their rotation.
“I’m just playing with different shapes of the slider,” Severino said. “I’ve got a big one and a small one. I think when I was a starter two, three years ago, I didn’t have those kinds of pitches. Then after I got injured, my changeup got even better so I’m throwing a lot of changeups now.”
Severino said he throws the change in the middle and the result is the pitch goes low in the zone. When the pitch goes to the outside it catches the corner.
The fastball got away to Verdugo that went in the right field stands. He got through the third inning and after Trevor Story led off the fourth with a single his day was done. That fastball averaged 97.7 MPH, a test in itself, while he threw 32 pitches in the second inning.
“I feel pretty good,” Severino said. “I saw the velocity was pretty good. I wasn’t expecting to be that high. Right now, I’m just expecting to face the next team.”
He mentioned the home run to Verdugo. He said it was the hardest ball hit and the others in that inning were all from soft contact. But there was that concern about a volume of pitches that were thrown that put the Yankees in an early hole they were able to overcome with the home runs.
“But the Red Sox are a really good team,” Severino said. “We can beat those guys.”
The Blue Jays are also a really good team. Indeed the Yankees made an early statement in these first three games against their arch rivals that eliminated them in October up in Boston in the one-game AL wild card.
These next four with the Blue Jays are another early season test and the Yankees have to beat those guys also.
Rich Mancuso: Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso