HOUSTON — Maybe Joe Girardi had the right idea about taking out Luis Severino after four innings after all.
Severino was brilliant for four shutout innings in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series against the Astros at Minute Maid Park on Friday night.
But Severino fell apart in the fifth, as he walked three and allowed three runs before Girardi yanked him in the Yankees’ 7-1 loss.
“He lost his command,” Girardi said. “He pitched up fairly effectively, but he just kind of lost it up even a little bit more. It happens and they took advantage of it.”
Girardi pulled Severino in his previous start in Game 2 after four innings because he saw the righthander make a windmilling motion with his right arm after throwing a pitch. Girardi worried that could have indicated a shoulder issue, but Severino turned out to be just fine.
Matched against Justin Verlander in Game 6 with a chance to pitch the Yankees to the World Series, Severino retired 11 of the first 12 Astros before allowing a single to Carlos Correa with two outs in the fourth.
The game was scoreless going to the bottom of the fifth as the Yankees had only two hits against Verlander, who beat them in Game 2, 2-1, with a 124-pitch complete game.
Severino opened the fifth by walking Alex Bregman. Marwin Gonzalez hit a slow bounder to second to move Bregman into scoring position.
Severino then walked Evan Gattis on four pitches, the first three of them breaking balls. Gattis was in the lineup in place of a benched Carlos Beltran, the Astros’ usual designated hitter against righthanded pitching.
Brian McCann, the former Yankee who was hitless in his last 20 at-bats, followed with a ground-rule double that hopped over the short rightfield fence. Bregman scored to give the Astros a 1-0 lead.
As Chad Green warmed in the bullpen, Severino walked George Springer, again on four pitches, to load the bases.
Pitching coach Larry Rothschild visited the mound before Severino got Josh Reddick to fly out to short center for the second out. That was Reddick’s 20th consecutive at-bat without a hit.
Next up was Astros MVP candidate Jose Altuve. Girardi could have called on Green, who was ready in the bullpen. But he stayed with Severino.
Altuve lined the first pitch to left for a two-run single to give Houston a 3-0 lead. Severino’s night was done.
Green got Correa to pop out to second to end the inning. Severino’s final line: 4 2⁄3 innings, three hits, three runs, four walks and three strikeouts. Severino threw 79 pitches, 48 for strikes, and not enough good ones in the fifth.
What happened to the command in the inning? “I have no idea,” Severino said. “First batter leadoff walk and then everything happened so fast. I don’t know what happened.”
Severino has had an up-and-down postseason. He lasted one-third of an inning in the AL wild-card game, but the Yankees were able to come back and beat the Twins, 8-4.
With the Yankees facing elimination in Game 4 of the Division Series, Severino got the win by allowing three runs in seven innings in the Yankees’ 7-3 victory over the Indians.
He gave up one run in four innings in his truncated start in Game 2 of the ALCS. Severino’s postseason ERA is 5.63.