Luis Severino threw a changeup and Kyle Seager sent it on an outbound flight to right.
The Yankees’ ace didn’t do his typical impression of a dominant Cy Young candidate. But Thursday’s 4-3 win over Seattle at Yankee Stadium was a different kind of advertisement for his skills, showing how he can limit the damage on the rare occasions when he isn’t throwing like his usual elite self.
Severino struggled across 5 2⁄3 innings against another contender to play games in October. Yet he yielded just those three runs to outduel Mariners ace James Paxton.
When the Yankees’ dominant bullpen got through with Seattle, Severino was tied for the major-league lead in wins with 11. And the Yankees had a three-game sweep, moving them to an MLB-best 50-22. Severino is 8-1 in their fabulous 41-13 run since the 9-9 start.
“Sevy’s special,” Austin Romine said after taking in the view from behind the plate. “He can not have it and he’s going to give you six. Like today, it was a battle for him. He had to grind it out. He’s not grinding too many of those starts out. He’s usually pretty electric.
“But he’s not a machine. He’s a human being.”
His overall bottom line for 16 starts does have the look of machine-like efficiency — 11-2, 2.24 ERA. His line for the game included eight hits, tying his season high, a walk, a hit batter and five strikeouts, tying his season low. His streak of allowing two runs or fewer ended at five starts.
“Today wasn’t the best,” Severino said. “I wasn’t feeling that good, not good and comfortable. I was missing some pitches, getting deep in the counts.”
The Yankees have won his last 13 regular-season home starts dating to last September, their longest streak since 16 with David Cone in 1997 and 1998.
This time, they backed Severino right off the bat. Aaron Judge and Miguel Andujar handed him a 4-0 lead in the first with a matched set of two-run homers. Seager cut that lead in half with that one swing in the second.
“The changeup was a little flat today,” Romine said. “So we tried to make sure that if he did throw it, he kept it down and stick to his strengths, which was fastballs and sliders.”
The 46-29 Mariners had a runner in scoring position the next three innings, including via leadoff doubles in the fourth and the fifth. Severino escaped each time.
“But I just wasn’t feeling like myself,” he said.
Severino finally cracked again in the sixth, allowing a two-out RBI single by Ben Gamel on his 107th and final pitch, making it a one-run game.
“You come to expect him to just go out and dominate time and time again,” Aaron Boone said. “I think it’s a tribute to just how good a pitcher he’s become when he doesn’t have his good command and he’s still able to go out there and get the win.”