Luis Severino desperately needed this kind of outing.
So did the Yankees, who currently can use all the good news they can get.
Severino, borderline awful all month, held the hard-hitting Rangers in check through six innings in the Yankees' 1-0 victory on Saturday in front of 46,018 at the Stadium.
“Didn’t see a lot of pitches that seemed very hittable today,” Jake Bauers said of Severino, whom the outfielder helped greatly in the first inning when he threw out a runner at the plate. “To shut down a team like that speaks to the quality of our pitching staff.”
Severino, backed by Bauers’ throw, another home run by Billy McKinney and shutdown relief work by the bullpen, allowed five hits and two walks with four strikeouts. He handcuffed a Rangers team that entered the day not only in first place in the AL West but leading the American League in runs (455), batting average (.272), on-base percentage (.341) and hits (715) and ranked second in OPS (.796).
“That’s a tough group to go through,” Aaron Boone said of the Rangers (47-29), who outhit his club 8-4.
Severino (1-2, 5.25), his fastball back to its typical velocity — sitting in the range of 95 to 97 mph and peaking at 99 — was 0-2 with a 9.16 ERA in his previous four starts. In those outings, in which he allowed 29 hits, nine walks and a .349/.421/.651 opponents' slash line in 18 2/3 innings, he lacked command of a fastball that was a couple of notches below his usual radar readings.
But sporting a new haircut that was similar to what he wore in 2017 — “trying to get the 2017 Sevy, so start with the haircut,” Severino said with a smile — he resembled the pitcher who earned back-to-back All-Star bids in ’17 and ’18.
“I think it’s trusting my stuff,” said Severino, who pitched his last two innings with the lead after McKinney took Jon Gray (6-3, 2.89) deep in the fourth inning for his third homer in his last five games. “Higgy [Kyle Higashioka] had a great plan behind the plate, I was trusting him. We were able to attack hitters [with the fastball]. I think strike one was the main thing today, and the breaking ball had good shape. And we mixed the changeup in, too.”
Tommy Kahnle made it 10 straight outings without allowing a run to start his season with a 1-2-3 seventh and Clay Holmes escaped the mini-jam that Wandy Peralta left him in the eighth.
After Peralta allowed singles by Marcus Semien and Corey Seager and struck out Nathaniel Lowe, Holmes got Adolis Garcia — who hit a tiebreaking two-run homer off Michael King in the 10th inning Friday night — to ground into a force play at third. A wild pitch moved the lead runner to third, but Holmes struck out Josh Jung swinging at a slider.
Ron Marinaccio, perhaps showing rust from having not pitched in six days, walked a tightrope in the ninth, eventually earning his second save in six tries. The righthander, who had difficulty controlling his best pitch, the changeup, allowed a leadoff single by Jonah Heim and fell behind Mitch Garver 3-and-0 before walking him on five pitches. But he struck out Ezequiel Duran swinging at a 94-mph fastball and Leody Taveras swinging at a changeup, then got the always dangerous Semien to pop to second to end it.
“We definitely leaned on the fastball a little bit more after the Garver at-bat, and then we went back to it [the changeup] in a big spot to Taveras, so I was happy we stuck with that,” Marinaccio said. “It’s one of my better pitches, so we have to throw it, even if I don’t have the best feel for it.”
Severino was fortunate to get out of the first unscored on, aided in that cause when Bauers fielded Jung's single to right and nailed Lowe by several feet with his on-the-fly throw to Higashioka to end the inning.
“I just tried not to rush anything, put a throw somewhere where Higgy could handle it,” Bauers said. “Any time you can help a pitcher like Sevy, give him a little bit of momentum, you know he’s going to run with it, and that’s what he did today.”
Donaldson, LeMahieu sit. Josh Donaldson, in a 4-for-44 slide in which his batting average has plunged to .125, was out of the starting lineup for a second straight game. DJ LeMahieu, in a 15-for-94 (.160) slump, also did not play. Giancarlo Stanton, who entered the game 3-for-45, went 1-for-3. The three have gone 15-for-131 between them in Aaron Judge's absence . . . McKinney has compiled a .320/.346/.660 slash line in his 15 games . . . The Yankees are 7-10 since Judge suffered a toe injury and have scored 51 runs in the 17 games.