MINNEAPOLIS — Luis Severino didn’t have his good stuff, didn’t bend, didn’t break, didn’t pitch past the fourth inning and didn’t qualify for the win.
But the most important “didn’t” of all was this: Severino didn’t allow a run in the Yankees’ AL Division Series-clinching 5-1 victory over the Twins at Target Field on Monday night.
Severino pitched four innings — one of them extremely hairy — and left after throwing 83 pitches in his fourth start of the season to help the Yankees complete a three-game sweep.
Severino didn’t have his command early and his velocity was down a tick at the start, but he had a 1-0 lead when he took the mound in the second, thanks to Gleyber Torres’ home run off Jake Odorizzi in the top half.
The Twins’ Eddie Rosario led off the second with a double high off the rightfield wall, Mitch Garver walked and Luis Arraez fisted a single to left to load the bases. The sellout crowd of 41,121 was in a full-throated frenzy as the dangerous Miguel Sano came to the plate.
Something inside Severino clicked. He got Sano to pop out to first base on a 3-and-2 pitch. He struck out Marwin Gonzalez on 1-and-2, with all four pitches in the at-bat being sliders. He struck out Jake Cave looking at another slider to end the inning with the Yankees still ahead.
“I think that situation right there set the tone for the rest of the game,” Severino said. “I think that was the chance for the Twins to score, and I’m happy that I could throw good pitches enough to get out of that inning.”
It was 2-0 when Severino next took the mound on Brett Gardner’s two-out RBI single in the top of the third. With Gio Urshela on third, the Twins had third baseman Sano shift about four steps away from the base just before Odorizzi threw the pitch to Gardner, who grounded it to the exact spot Sano had just vacated.
The Twins tried to rally in their half. Polanco singled with one out and Rosario hit a two-out single to bring up Garver, who worked the count to 3-and-2. With Tommy Kahnle warming up in the bullpen, Severino blew a 98-mph fastball past Garver to end the inning.
In the fourth, Severino had his only 1-2-3 inning, but it still wasn’t easy. Arraez grounded out to short. Sano got the count to 3-and-2 before striking out on a 97-mph heater. Gonzalez lined a potential double that first baseman DJ LeMahieu snared with a leap — one of several excellent defensive plays by the Yankees on the night.
Kahnle took over for Severino to start the fifth and was followed by four other relievers, with Chad Green being awarded the win.
Severino will get another chance for a “W” — when the Yankees face the Astros or Rays in the ALCS.
“I thought Sevy, he made so many big pitches,” Aaron Boone said. “It wasn’t perfect there, and he got into some big trouble there in the second, but just so proud of how he navigated. Bases loaded, no outs, and he just locked it in and made pitches.
“I think that really kind of embodied the whole night as far as how our guys played. I thought they played such a clean game. They made so many big plays in big spots because I really thought the Twins brought it tonight. They made it difficult. They had traffic it seemed like all night. Our guys just kept making big pitches when they needed to and big defensive plays.
“Sevy, to work as hard as he did the first few innings, obviously to make some huge pitches, and then in the fourth, I thought he kind of settled in. Looked like he started to get into a rhythm there. Once he was up over 80, I wasn’t going to push him beyond that. It felt like we were set up to roll the guys out how we wanted to. It wasn’t perfect, but, again, the guys just kept making pitches.”