Luis Severino wants to be in this conversation: Who are the best pitchers in the majors?
“Getting to know him from really the start of spring training, [he has] a real drive to be great,” Aaron Boone said. “He’s not satisfied with obviously a great year last year. He wants to be among the game’s best. You can see that in the way he goes about his business.”
The best pitchers are able to get through an outing with minimal damage even when they haven’t brought their best material along for the ride.
Severino wasn’t in his Grade A form for the Yankees against the A’s on Sunday at Yankee Stadium in a game that began 2 hours and 45 minutes late because of rain. After it finally started, he threw three hitless innings, but it required 54 pitches. Oakland got to him for a total of five hits in the fourth and fifth innings, but when he walked off for good after the sixth, there were just those five hits and one run attached to his line. The Yankees earned a 6-2 win to stay even with Boston for the best record in the AL East and the majors at 28-12.
“It’s satisfying because we won,” Severino said. “I want to go out there and compete. When I don’t have my best stuff, I want to go out there and give my hundred percent.”
His record rose to 6-1 and his ERA fell to 2.14 in nine starts. He’s 4-0 with a 1.54 ERA in his last six. All six were quality starts, the longest streak by a Yankees pitcher in that category since 2015, when Severino also reeled off six straight.
The 24-year-old righty, who went 14-6 with a 2.98 ERA last season, is tied for the AL lead in victories. He also passed Washington’s Max Scherzer for most starts allowing one run or fewer since the start of 2017. This was No. 21 out of 40.
So Severino is in that conversation now. But he didn’t bring his good slider this time, nor his good fastball command. He struck out seven after reaching double-digits in his previous two starts. But he walked only two and those five hits were all singles, including three in the fifth, when the A’s cut their deficit to 3-1. He threw 106 pitches, 70 for strikes.
“Talk about grinding through it,” Boone said. “ . . . But all in all, for not necessarily having his best stuff, I thought today, to be able to go out there and hold them to one run, you love to see that out of your ace . . . That’s why he’s become a really special pitcher.”
Giancarlo Stanton backed Severino with another home run. Eight of his 10 homers have come in five of his starts.
Stanton told him, “We work well together.”
Said Severino, “I told him today that I have to pitch every two days. Every time I pitch, he hits a homer.”