HOUSTON — It would be far and away the biggest start of Luis Severino’s career, an opportunity the righthander feels more than ready for.
Aaron Boone tabbed Severino as his starter for ALCS Game 7 against the Astros on Sunday night — with the major caveat being, of course, the Yankees' need to win Game 6 at Minute Maid Park on Saturday night.
An additional caveat: Boone, who used Chad Green as an opener on Saturday night as he went with a bullpen strategy, said that if need be, Severino could be an option for Game 6 as a reliever.
Still, the primary focus for Severino was on a potential Game 7.
“I'd love it,” he said Saturday. “Since I was a kid, I've been a Yankee fan, and being in that situation in Game 7 for a team that I love would be I think one of my best experiences.”
Severino, as has been oft-discussed, has been a mixed bag in his postseason career.
He is 1-3 with a 5.17 ERA in eight career postseason starts, including Game 3 of this series at the Stadium, when he allowed two runs and five hits in 4 1/3 innings in the Yankees’ 4-1 loss to Gerrit Cole.
“I think for me, there's going to be a Game 7,” Severino said of his mindset and preparation. “I've got confidence in the bullpen that we have and the guys that we have. We're going to go out there and give everything we've got.”
If Severino does get the chance to start Game 7, it would be the high point of a 2019 season that has been trying, to say the least.
He started the season on the injured list with right shoulder inflammation and, when he was nearly recovered from that, suffered a severe lat strain in April. He did not return until mid-September.
Severino did make three starts before the end of the regular season, going 1-1 with a 1.50 ERA and striking out 17 in 12 innings, which convinced the Yankees and Boone that he could be a legitimate October option.
“I feel pretty good,” said Severino, who threw four scoreless innings in the Yankees’ ALDS-clinching victory over the Twins in Game 3 in Minneapolis. “I would say it's been a tough couple of months since the beginning of the season. But right now, all that doesn't matter. What matters now is that I'm healthy now and I can go there and give some good innings for my team.”
When Severino has struggled in the postseason, he’s chalked it up to perhaps being overly amped up, something he discussed on the eve of his start in Game 3.
“What I learned is sometimes you have to block everything out,” he said. “Worry about the hitters, not worry about the noise from the fans or anything else. You have to worry about making good pitches. You go out there and have good games.”
It has been a slow process in building Severino up, and he progressed to the point of being allowed to throw 97 pitches in Game 3. He’s as stretched out as he’ll be.
“Last night I threw 90-something pitches. That's the most I've been throwing this year,” Severino said. “And my recovery, I think it’s the main thing for me, and I feel like I've recovered pretty good.”
Though Severino wasn’t at his best against Cole, his performance wasn’t the main issue in Game 3. The offense, which got on track to a degree against Justin Verlander in Friday’s 4-1 victory, has been stagnant since the 7-0 victory in Game 1. Entering Saturday, the Yankees were 21-for-132 (.159) with 42 strikeouts in the previous four games and had scored 10 runs in that stretch, nine of those coming on five homers.
“The last game we did what we always did in the season,” Severino said. “All those [other] games are behind us. It doesn't matter anymore. But I feel like we have a great lineup, they can do a lot of damage, 1 through 9. I feel like if we go out there today like we did last night, we're going to be successful.”
And give Severino the chance of his lifetime.