Aaron Boone didn’t just say he was excited. He said he was “really” excited. And he didn’t just say it once, he said it twice. Because when presented with the oh so tantalizing prospect of Luis Severino pitching the way the erstwhile ace is capable of, the truth is, plain old “excited” just isn’t going to cut it for him and his Yankees.
After all, long after the Red Sox leave the Bronx, and long after they clinch the division, that will be one of the primary takeaways from this series: Severino could be back, and just in time for it to really count.
“I know I’m getting on track again,” Severino said. “Every time we face the Red Sox, it’s a huge series and a huge game and I think facing a team like this [brings] out the best in everybody. My mindset today was to go out there and go after everybody.”
For now, it seems somewhat unlikely that Severino — who suffered a precipitous downfall in the second half of the season — will earn himself the start in the wild-card game. But even if he doesn’t, Severino’s success is deeply tied to the Yankees postseason prospects, and his ability to get his team off to a hot start in the ALDS will help dictate whether the Yankees have what it takes to topple the best team in baseball. Simply put, facing a top-tier version of Severino possibly twice in a best-of-five series is nobody’s idea of a good time.
And though the Red Sox have proven untouchable for most of the season, they’ve seemed downright human during various junctures this series — none the more than against Severino, who thrived against an ostensibly terrifying lineup and never lost focus or confidence, not even after a dodgy first inning. He threw seven innings of one-run ball — only the second time he had thrown seven innings in the second half. “He just pitched,” Boone said. After having abandoned him for most of the second half, his changeup was back. His slider was reliable. His fastball location made both those other two all the more effective.
“To have him go out and pitch the way he did, to see the confidence build as the night continued to unfold, I’m just really excited for him,” Boone said. “Hopefully he can take off from there and be the guy we know he could be.”
It’s perhaps more encouraging because it looks like Severino has been building up to this. In his nine starts directly after the All-Star break, he was 3-5 with a 7.00 ERA, but in his last two, he’s 1-1 with a 1.42 ERA.
“He got into a really good groove and it's a really exciting outing for him,” Boone said.
Added Severino: “It’s good to go out there and throw seven innings against a team like [the Red Sox]…We’re going to fight to the end. It doesn’t matter what the scores say. They’re going to win a hundred and something games and we’re going to battle them to the end and every game from here on out, we’re going to fight to win.”
These last few weeks have taught Severino plenty about fighting, and if this keeps up, he’ll be able to use some of that hard-earned knowledge when the Yankees face their biggest test.