BOSTON — Luis Severino’s stated goal this season is close the gap between himself and the two pitchers who finished ahead of him in 2017 Cy Young balloting: Cleveland’s Corey Kluber and Boston’s Chris Sale. He got his first shot to take a step in that direction on Tuesday night against the Red Sox and stumbled badly.
The Yankees’ ace was pummeled from the outset, couldn’t keep the Yanks in the game and ended his first clunker of 2018 with the loss in a 14-1 defeat at Fenway Park.
“You know you’re up against it any time you’re facing Sale, but any time we have [Severino] going out there, we feel good about it, too,” manager Aaron Boone said. “It just wasn’t his night.”
The top of the Boston order had the righthander on the ropes immediately as Mookie Betts doubled, Andrew Benintendi walked and Hanley Ramirez singled through the middle for the first run. That was the only blemish in the inning as Severino recorded the last two outs with the bases loaded, but those first three hitters tormented him for the remainder of the outing.
They were a combined 6-for-6 with five RBIs, two walks and sacrifice fly against Severino, and they also battered the Yankees’ bullpen, including Betts’ grand slam in a nine-run sixth.
Severino said that he “wasn’t finishing my slider” and that as a result he was leaving them in the middle of the plate. He and Boone were asked whether he might have been tipping his pitches, which has been an occasional problem. Severino replied, “I don’t know if I was tipping or they saw something. The game is not the time to work on that — maybe go to the bullpen and see video of what’s going on.”
Said Boone: “We’ve addressed certain things with him in the past that we felt we’ve noticed from time to time. As far as those, we’re as vigilant as we can be on things he may or may not be doing. It’s something we’re always having conversations about.”
Severino had been crafting a reputation as an outstanding road pitcher before Tuesday night’s outing. Since his appearance in the 2017 All-Star Game, he had gone 5-0 with a 0.78 ERA in seven starts away from Yankee Stadium; he hadn’t allowed more than one run in any of them. That included outdueling Sale and the Red last Sept. 3 with six innings of one-run ball in what became a 9-2 Yankees victory.
On Tuesday night he allowed five runs, eight hits and three walks, though he did record six strikeouts. Severino (2-1) saw his ERA jump from 1.38 to 3.50.
Severino needed 27 pitches to get through that first inning and it ended up looking brilliant when compared with his pitching in the second. He allowed three runs and four hits and needed 31 pitches to get out of the frame. Betts had a single in front of a two-run triple to right by Benintendi. Ramirez followed with a run-scoring single to left-center for a 4-0 lead.
“He struggled with his command and it drove his pitch count up the first couple innings there,” Boone said. “A lot of quality at-bats from them tonight against him.”