David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
TORONTO - When Rogers Centre finally went silent, long after Luis Severino contained the Blue Jays for six innings, and Greg Bird finished them with a three-run homer in the 10th, Brian Cashman emerged from the visitors clubhouse, smiling after Tuesday night's season-saving 6-4 win over Toronto.
In the wake of such a frenzied game, with ears still ringing from the 747-type roar, the question we posed to Cashman wasn't all that specific. It went something like this:
It's kind of beyond your wildest expectations for this kid, right? As confident as you were in him . . .
And Cashman, without skipping a beat, replied, "Which one?"
The GM was right. What was the point separating the two? Without Severino putting a leash on the Big Blue Monster for six innings, the same bully that pushed him around 11 days ago in the Bronx, there is no tie-breaking, game-winning homer from Bird.
Taking that a step further, where would the Yankees be without either one? Or both? Possibly out of playoff contention. Not just for the AL East title, which Severino and Bird still kept in play. We're talking about the wild card. That's how valuable these two have been.
You'd have to go all the way back to the Core Four to produce a pair of homegrown prospects with the twin ceilings of Severino and Bird. This is no longer about potential. They're already doing it on the major-league level, in the middle of a playoff race, for the most scrutinized franchise in professional sports.
Oh, and did we mention how noisy it was inside Rogers Centre Tuesday night? When asked about the 47,992 people screaming at him for two hours, Severino grinned. He heard them.
"When they got loud," Severino said, "I feel like they're cheering for me."
That's a perspective from a visiting player we hadn't heard before. Never mind one that's only 21 years old, the youngest to make a start in the majors this season, in fact. We half expected Severino to ask to close the roof, you know, to turn the volume up on the "cheering." That's when you know the kid has ice water in his veins.
"This place was like the Kingdome in '95," Cashman said. "That was a very impressive WWE crowd that he was performing in front of."
We were at the Kingdome for that '95 Division Series, and haven't been inside a louder building since. Picnicking on the runway at Kennedy would be peaceful by comparison. And yet Severino allowed only two runs and three hits over those six innings. Previously, Severino was 0-2 with a 9.72 ERA in two clashes with Toronto, but apparently has a short memory, too.
"No panic," Cashman said. "He believes his stuff is as good as anybody's. With what they did against him, and he came back, in their house, with that crowd, and did what he did at this age. That shows the level of ability that he has."
Not to be outdone, Bird brought the curtain down, hammering his 10th home run in just 34 games. Six of those have given the Yankees the lead, and eight have been with at least one runner on base. Call it what you want. Clutch, having a flair for the dramatic, maybe being a money player. But Bird has come up that big for the Yankees, in the biggest spots. "He's been spectacular," Cashman said. "It think it's more reflective of the type of hitter he really is. He literally has no panic in him."
It's also an important tool if you're going to be playing in New York, which makes what Severino and Bird are doing even more special. Their teammates have noticed as well.
"The expectation for me personally is when young guys come up is for them to struggle," Andrew Miller said. "It took me a long time to even get to the point where I was treading water and these guys are getting big hits, they're pitching big games."
And winning them.