The good vibes at Yankee Stadium after Brian Cashman’s trade for Sonny Gray on Monday still were wafting through the crowd when something worrisome happened in the top of the first inning.
Trainer Steve Donohue jogged out to the mound after Luis Severino threw a pitch to Detroit’s Victor Martinez with two outs and the bases loaded. Certainly the Yankees wouldn’t be cursed with losing their prized young ace to injury just hours after adding Gray?
Fortunately for the Yankees, Severino was OK and Donohue went back to the dugout.
Severino struck out Martinez to end the inning and went on to throw a season-high 116 pitches in only five innings. But it was enough for him to earn the win as the Yankees beat the Tigers, 7-3, before 39,904.
The Yankees believe they upgraded their rotation with the trade for Oakland’s Gray and Sunday’s pickup of lefthander Jaime Garcia from the Twins, so they didn’t want to think for a second about an injury to Severino.
The issue in the first inning? Severino called it “just a bad landing” and said he felt something in his left knee.
Said Joe Girardi: “We saw him grab his leg, but he was fine. It just looked funny to me. Your antenna goes up. But he said he was fine.”
Severino (8-4), who has allowed two earned runs in his last 26 innings, lowered his ERA to 2.98 as the AL East-leading Yankees maintained their half-game lead over the Red Sox.
Chase Headley and Todd Frazier each drove in two runs and Aaron Judge hit his 34th home run for the Yankees, who have won seven of eight. Clint Frazier added an RBI triple.
Severino had the strikeout pitch working. His first five outs were strikeouts and he finished with eight. He allowed one run, four hits and three walks and hit a batter.
“He just wasn’t as sharp,” Girardi said. “They fouled some pitches off. A couple of hitters put some long at-bats on him. It started with the first batter of the game. Just wasn’t quite as sharp.”
The only run Severino allowed came in the fourth. Mikie Mahtook singled with two outs and took second when Clint Frazier overran the ball for an error. James McCann followed with an RBI double into the rightfield corner that just eluded a diving Judge to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.
The Yankees scored four in the bottom of the fourth against Michael Fulmer (10-9). With the bases loaded and none out, Headley gave the Yankees the lead with a two-run double. Todd Frazier followed with a two-run single to make it 4-1.
Judge, who entered the game 9-for-57 since the Home Run Derby, hit a solo rocket to left in the fifth.
In the top of the fifth, Severino retired the first two batters before walking two and falling behind 2-and-0 on Martinez. With his pitch count over 110, Girardi was trying to nurse Severino through the inning so he could be eligible for the win.
On 2-and-0, Severino fired a 95-mph fastball by Martinez, then another at 97. After a foul ball on a slider and a 98-mph fastball inside for ball three, Severino struck out Martinez on a 97-mph heater, according to the stadium gun.
“I was tired,” Severino said. “I wanted that pitch bad.”
It was clocked at 98 mph if you were watching on YES — on his 116th pitch of the night.
“Which is a lot,” Girardi said. “We feel pretty good about him. I don’t think his stuff drops off. I wouldn’t do that a lot, but I felt that he still had good stuff.”