ARLINGTON, Texas — By just about any measure, Luis Severino was as good Saturday afternoon as he’d been all season.
But it took some professional at-bats by Matt Holliday and Chase Headley in the eighth inning and a clutch hit by rookie Tyler Austin to keep him from taking as tough a loss as a pitcher can take.
As Headley put it after the Yankees scratched out a 3-1 victory over the Rangers at Globe Life Park, a loss by Severino “would have been a tough one to swallow.”
Severino allowed one run and one hit (a two-out RBI double by Brett Nicholas in the fifth, Texas’ lone hit in the game) and struck out 10 in seven innings, but the Yankees trailed 1-0 as the game moved to the eighth. They had mustered little against righthander Andrew Cashner to that point.
Then, a break.
Cashner, who had retired 13 of the last 14 batters, began the inning by hitting Todd Frazier with his 99th pitch. Rangers manager Jeff Banister brought in lefty Alex Claudio to face Greg Bird, and Joe Girardi countered with Holliday to pinch hit. He delivered, lining a 1-and-1 sinker to right for a single that put runners at the corners.
Brett Gardner, who had singled in his first two at-bats, fouled out to catcher Nicholas, but Headley came through with a sacrifice fly to center to tie it at 1.
“He’s a little funky [with his delivery] and a lot of separation between his fastball and changeup,” Headley said. “I picked one, looked changeup and got one out over the plate.”
After singles by Starlin Castro and Jacoby Ellsbury in the ninth, Frazier again was hit by a pitch to load the bases with one out. Austin lined an RBI single to left off Ricardo Rodriguez and, after Gardner popped out, Headley drew a bases-loaded walk to make it 3-1.
Aroldis Chapman struck out two in a perfect ninth to earn his 17th save. David Robertson, who pitched a perfect eighth, got the win.
The story, however, was Severino. A peripheral AL Cy Young Award candidate, he is 7-2 with a 2.07 ERA and 87 strikeouts in 69 2⁄3 innings since the All-Star break. In nine of those 11 starts, he has allowed one or fewer earned runs.
“He was really good today,” Girardi said. “Looked like he had great command of his fastball, his slider was good. Threw an occasional changeup, but his command was really good.’’
Yet Severino could have lost 1-0. “That’s about as tough as it gets,’’ Girardi said.
“I know this team’s [eventually] going to hit,” said Severino, who lowered his ERA to 2.96 and still was throwing 99 mph in his last inning. “They’re going to do something. In my mind, it was just that I had to keep it a one-run game.”
The Rangers entered the fifth without a run or a hit and departed the inning with one of each. Joey Gallo led off with a walk and was replaced at first when Will Middlebrooks beat out a potential double-play ball to third, a 5-4 forceout. Severino struck out Rougned Odor, but Nicholas, the No. 9 hitter, ripped a 98-mph fastball into the rightfield corner for a 1-0 lead.
“You just keep going,” Severino said of watching the opposing pitcher putting up zeros. “Just keep battling to hold the game there.”
“Wish we could have gotten him the win, he deserved it,” Headley said. “But after last night and quick turnaround [an 11-5 loss in which the Yankees led 5-1 and a noon local time start Saturday), it was still a big win overall for the team.”