Luis Severino’s return from shoulder and lat injuries, which cost him almost the entire regular season, to start Monday night’s potential Division Series clincher at Target Field makes for a nice October redemption tale.
But think of it more like an Instagram story than a Netflix special.
After the way the Yankees took a 2-0 lead in this ALDS, cruising to a pair of easy victories while barely taxing their vaunted bullpen, all signs point to a cameo appearance by Severino.
Three innings? Possibly four, max. And that’s if Severino is close to brilliant.
Because with the relief corp’s limited usage, combined with Sunday’s off day, the Yankees can empty their full arsenal at the Twins, early and often.
Look what happened to Masahiro Tanaka in Saturday’s Game 2 victory, when Aaron Boone didn’t feel comfortable letting one of the Yankees’ best October pitchers of recent vintage go beyond the fifth inning.
With an 8-1 lead.
Despite throwing only 83 pitches.
Sure it’s the postseason, when every at-bat can be critical to survival. But to have little-used lefty Tyler Lyons warming to back up Tanaka -- rather than just trusting Tanaka to figure things out himself, with a healthy cushion -- felt a little overboard.
That’s the Yankees’ playbook, however, and Boone won’t stray from their carefully formulated October blueprint. For good reason. Following this plan is how the Yankees intend to win the World Series, and deploying the full might of their bullpen weapons Monday night should be enough to complete a broom job of the Twins.
Boone already was holding back Chad Green, who faced only two hitters in Friday’s series-opening 10-4 rout, for the contingency of using him after Tanaka the following night. But the Yankees didn’t need Green in the 8-2 blowout, so now Boone has his multi-inning terminator to piggyback Severino in a clinching effort.
“We’re in a good position,” Boone said before Sunday’s workout at Target Field. “We’re in good shape, obviously. We’re set up — with the off day and guys being rested — that we can shoot everything at you in a Game 3. And hopefully we’re in a position to do that.
“So that feels good. But there’s always that trepidation walking into a game knowing that it can get sideways at any point, too.”
Sideways? We would have taken Boone’s warning under consideration a few days earlier, at the start of this series, when the Twins still had the cachet of a 101-win AL Central champion. But we’re not buying those cautionary words now.
While those 307 regular-season homers were enough to earn the Twins a cool nickname — Bomba Squad — all that and $2.75 would get them a No. 4 train ride to the Bronx, where they got their behinds kicked.
The Yankees can’t be bullied like the Tigers, White Sox and Royals. Boone’s crew is built for dismantling and demoralizing the Twins’ muscular lineup, which is how this Division Series is playing out.
Through the first two games, the Yankees’ pitching staff has held the Twins to a .197 batting average, striking out 27 in 18 innings and walking seven. Minnesota hit three homers in the cozy Stadium, same as the Yankees.
This series figured to be a slugfest, with both teams pounding away at each other until one yielded in submission, like baseball’s version of an MMA match. But only the Yankees have dealt out punishment, with their pitching staff basically neutralizing the Twins’ powerful offense.
That trend should hold for Game 3 if Severino can perform up to expectations for three innings or so, with Boone ready to call on Green and then go to his high-leverage arms from there — the order to be determined by the situation.
“I think the rule of thumb is just be ready for anything,” said Adam Ottavino, who was used for only one batter in Game 1. “So you could be in there for a long time or a short time. I try not to get too caught up in any of that. I just try to go out and get the first guy out, then worry about the next guy, if you get taken out, you get taken out. Just really try not to look into it too far.”
Boone is the only Yankee doing that, because he has to think three or four moves ahead. Once Severino throws his first pitch Monday, Boone already will be thinking of who’s next. And with so many lethal arms to choose from, he’ll never wait very long.