Luis Severino knows exactly what he’s up against.
But facing Gerrit Cole, the best pitcher in baseball during the final 2 ½ months of the season, in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series on Tuesday afternoon at the Stadium doesn’t change his approach.
“For me, it doesn’t matter,” Severino said Monday. “ I want to go out there and get zeros for my team. Doesn’t matter if it’s [Justin] Verlander, Cole or Zack Greinke; I want to go out there and give my best.”
Severino, presumably, will have to put up plenty of zeros.
Cole went 20-5 with a 2.50 ERA and 326 strikeouts in 212 1/3 innings this season. He went 11-0 with a 1.51 ERA in his last 13 regular-season starts, striking out 143 and walking 16 in 89 2/3 innings in that stretch, and has gone 18-0 in his last 24 starts, including the postseason.
If there were an ALDS MVP award, he would have won it, going 2-0 with a 0.57 ERA and a 0.57 WHIP in two starts in Houston’s five-game victory over the Rays. Cole struck out 25, walked three and allowed six hits in 15 2/3 innings.
While acknowledging the obvious about Cole and in no way diminishing the other-worldly roll that the Houston righthander is on, Severino reiterated his initial comment.
“I don’t need to go out there and strike out 15 people, I just need to go out there and throw a good game,” he said. “Even if somebody else was pitching tomorrow, I was going to go out there and try to bring my ‘A’ game out there. It doesn’t matter who’s pitching, I’m going to try to go out there and win the game for the Yankees.”
The game is, of course, pivotal for both teams with the series tied at 1-1. The Yankees won the opener at Minute Maid Park, 7-0, before falling, 3-2, in 11 innings Sunday night.
Severino already has had his share of postseason experiences in his young career, some good and some not so good. An example of the former came in the clinching Game 3 of this year’s Division Series against the Twins when he threw four scoreless innings against the Twins at Target Field, escaping a bases-loaded, none-out jam in the second.
An example of the not-so-good was Game 3 of last year’s ALDS loss to the Red Sox. He allowed six runs and seven hits in three innings.
“What I learned is sometimes you have to block everything out,” said Severino, 1-2 with a 5.33 ERA in seven career postseason starts. “Worry about the hitters, not worry about the noise from the fans or anything else. You have to worry about making good pitches. You go out there and have good games.”
Severino’s journey to this postseason was an odd one, to say the least.
He started the season on the injured list with right shoulder inflammation, suffered a severe lat strain while rehabbing the shoulder and did not made it back until mid-September.
Severino made three starts before the end of the regular season, going 1-1 with a 1.50 ERA and striking out 17 in 12 innings, showing enough to Aaron Boone and the Yankees to make them consider him a viable October option.
The Astros, obviously, are confident about their Game 3 pitcher. So are the Yankees.
“You’ve got to be able to handle situations, handle the moment, handle adversity, handle success on the fly,” Boone said. “And the one thing about Sevy is I feel like he’s been through a lot as a young major-leaguer; lots of success, some bumps in the road, some stumbles, an injury now this year. Postseason experiences where he’s fallen down, where he’s come back and dealt. So I think hopefully all those things equip him well heading into tomorrow. I feel like he’s very equipped to go out there. Whatever the result ends up being, he’s in command of the moment.”