There are nights Aaron Boone truly doesn’t know what he’s going to get from his rotation.
Except when Luis Severino is on the mound.
“Sevy really continues to cement himself as an ace in this league,” Boone said Wednesday afternoon.
That process continued a few hours later as Severino threw seven dominant innings against the defending champion Astros in a 5-3 Yankees victory in front of 45,229 at the Stadium.
“That’s what aces do,” Aaron Hicks said.
The victory allowed the Yankees (35-17) to take two of three from the Astros (35-22) here and five of seven this season. They remain two games behind the Red Sox in the AL East.
Severino (8-1, 2.31) struck out 11, including seven of the first nine batters he faced. He retired the first 11 overall, en route to allowing two runs and four hits, walking one.
He struck out 10 and walked one May 2 when he notched his first career shutout in Houston.
“I thought that was as good as he was, almost, in the shutout,” Boone said.
Severino, 6-0 with a 1.95 ERA in his last nine starts, made one mistake Wednesday, a 99-mph fastball with two outs in the fifth that Max Stassi hit out for a 2-1 Astros lead.
He was otherwise fantastic, going more with his darting slider and rapidly improving changeup against a team that typically feasts on fastballs.
The confidence in the pitch was never more evident than on a full count in the fourth to the dangerous Carlos Correa, who swung and missed.
“It’s made me a better pitcher,” Severino said. “I threw a 3-2 changeup to Correa; it was a very good changeup. It’s made me a better pitcher because the hitters are not thinking fastball away or slider away, they’re thinking about a third pitch.”
After Stassi’s homer, the Yankees rallied against past tormentor Dallas Keuchel, getting a two-run single in the fifth by Gary Sanchez, which snapped an 0-for-19 slide and put them back ahead for good at 3-2.
After Severino needed eight pitches to retire the Astros in order in the top of the sixth, the Yankees added on in the bottom half. Gleyber Torres, who won Tuesday night’s game with a walk-off single in the 10th, doubled and scored on Didi Gregorius’ single. That knocked out Keuchel (3-7, 3.65), who allowed four runs and seven hits in five-plus innings.
Austin Romine walked with one out against righty Collin McHugh and scored on Hicks’ slicing double to left that got under the glove of a diving Marwin Gonzalez that made it 5-2.
Aroldis Chapman allowed an RBI double to Stassi with two outs in the ninth but struck out George Springer swinging at a 102.5 mph fastball for his 12th save.
The Yankees once again got to Keuchel. The lefty went 6-2 with a 1.09 ERA over his first eight career starts against them before getting crushed in Game 5 of last year’s ALCS and then allowing three runs and six hits in seven innings of the May 2 Severino shutout. As well as Astros starters have pitched this season, the Yankees have taken the best Houston has thrown at them and won five of seven. If the clubs meet again, it won’t be for another four months.
“When I look across at that club, I look at them as they’re a really good team,” Boone said. “We know that. I certainly think we have their respect, and we know we’re a really good team, but we also recognize it is only May. It’s great to go up against the best and have some success, no question about it, but it’s a long season.”