TORONTO — Those who hope to see Luis Severino and J.A. Happ anchoring the Yankees’ playoff rotation saw neither pitcher at close to his best on Saturday afternoon.
By the time Happ had thrown five pitches, Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge had hit back-to-back homers, part of a forgettable 2 2⁄3-inning outing by the lefthander in the Yankees’ 8-5 victory over the Blue Jays in front of 44,352 at Rogers Centre.
Severino lifted his record to 14-2 but allowed two home runs and left after throwing 97 pitches in five innings.
“I didn’t have my best stuff today,” said Severino, who allowed three runs, which lifted his ERA from 1.98 to 2.12, and five hits. “It was a great team win.”
Happ, 35, very much a trade deadline target of the Yankees (57-29) as they try to upgrade their starting rotation, was charged with six runs and allowed four hits and six walks. Because of the lack of quality starters available, Happ will remain very much in demand, including by the Yankees, though Saturday’s performance made it 20 earned runs allowed in his last four starts, pushing his season ERA to 4.44.
“I don’t really pay attention to it much until it actually happens,” Judge said of the rumors surrounding Happ and the Yankees. “There’s always so much speculation about who we’re going to get, who we’re going to trade, what’s going to happen when we still have a job to do on the field. We still have to win ballgames and do our job.”
Speaking afterward to reporters in the Toronto clubhouse, Happ didn’t delve too much into the speculation.
“I’m just focused on playing for the Blue Jays right now,” he said. “There’s rumors out there. You never know what’s speculation, what’s true and what has any realistic chance. I’m just trying to play and pitch. I’m happy right here and we’ll see what happens.”
Severino wasn’t great Saturday, but he remains very much among the favorites to be the American League’s starter in the All-Star Game. The righthander, who was 11-1 with a 1.70 ERA in his previous 15 starts, allowed a two-run homer by Kevin Pillar in the second to bring the Blue Jays within 4-2 and a solo shot by Randal Grichuk in the fourth to make it 7-3.
Even without his best stuff, Severino made it 16 consecutive starts in which he’s allowed three or fewer runs, the longest such streak by a Yankee since 1920.
“I didn’t have my slider,” Severino said. “It helps when you have a great team [around you].”
Of potentially starting the All-Star Game, Severino said, “I would be happy to start but I’m just going to focus on my next start against the Cleveland Indians.”
Aaron Boone gave his endorsement, with a caveat.
“I’d love to see him start and go one inning,” he said with a smile. “I certainly think he’s as deserving as anyone. There’s a handful of great pitchers in this league that could make a claim to get that honor and Sevy’s probably at the top of that list.”
Jonathan Holder, who entered the game with a 0.28 ERA in 26 appearances since being recalled on April 21, allowed a run in the sixth that made it 7-4.
David Robertson and Dellin Betances each pitched a scoreless inning and Chasen Shreve allowed a homer to Aledmys Diaz with two outs in the ninth to make it 8-5.
It took Happ 20 pitches to record his first out and 60 pitches to record his fifth out. Gardner jumped on a first-pitch fastball and sent it into the seats in right-center for his sixth homer. Judge then sliced a 2-and-1 fastball to right-center, a touch short of where Gardner’s landed, for his 25th homer and a 2-0 lead. It was Judge’s sixth homer in his last nine games.
“You see your leadoff guy go out there and get that first one on the board, that kind of pumps everybody up and says, ‘Hey, let’s go out there and attack this guy,’ ” Judge said. “That’s what we were able to do that first inning.”
After Judge’s homer, Happ walked Giancarlo Stanton and Hicks, then seemed to settle in, striking out Miguel Andujar and Didi Gregorius. But Brandon Drury, who got the start at second, dumped a single to center that bounced over the head of a hard-charging Pillar, resulting in a two-run double that made it 4-0. Curtis Granderson made a diving backhand catch in deep leftfield to rob Kyle Higashioka of an extra-base hit and end the 34-pitch inning.
The Yankees added three runs in the third to take a 7-2 lead.
After Gregorius led off with a walk, Happ retired Drury on a flyout and struck out Higashioka on a pitch in the lower part of the strike zone, prompting CC Sabathia to yell at plate umpire Lance Barrett, who ejected him. After Happ walked Bird, John Gibbons brought on righty Jake Petricka to face Gardner, and the Blue Jays manager, himself angry with the strike zone, was summarily ejected by Barrett.
Gardner then laced a fastball into the gap in left-center for a two-run triple and scored on a passed ball.
Andujar doubled and Gregorius singled him home in the ninth to make it 8-4.