Total redemption may still be out of Joe Girardi’s reach. But the Yankees’ manager is closer now than he’s ever been during the previous 48 hours as the team heads back to Cleveland for Game 5 of the ALDS, and he can thank Luis Severino for that.
How fitting that Severino, with his own demons to dispose of from that wild-card meltdown less than a week earlier, was the pitcher to deliver Monday’s Game 4 victory, a 7-3 win that required seven strong innings from the estranged ace. Severino struck out nine, surrendered a pair of home runs, and willed himself through a 113-pitch performance that had the 47,316 fans chanting “Se-ver-i-no!” for the final handful.
“I heard the stadium calling my name,” Severino said, smiling.
The last time Severino stood on that mound, he was booed off it after recording only one out in the eventual 8-4 win over the Twins in the wild-card game. For the Yankees’ No. 1, a pitcher who finished 14-6 with a 2.98 ERA in the regular season, it was a crushing disappointment, knowing that he let his teammates down.
Fast forward to Game 2 of the Division Series, at Progressive Field, and Girardi had his own Severino playoff moment, a nightmarish sixth inning that featured a non-challenge that will haunt the manager for the rest of his career, however long that may be. When Girardi returned to the Bronx, he delivered a mea culpa — “I screwed up” — yet still was roundly booed during the introductions before Sunday’s Game 3.
That had to be heartbreaking for the besieged manager, who warned his family beforehand, and the emotional wounds appeared to remain with him as he spoke after the Game 4 win that saved the season for the second time in as many nights.
“It’s as difficult a loss as I’ve had as a manager,” Girardi said, his voice cracking as he fought back tears. “And it’s difficult because I care so much. It’s not caring about myself. It’s caring about everyone else that is involved and that’s wrapped up in Yankees baseball.
“Whether it’s the fans, the front office, the owner, the players . . . I really care. We’ve got a shot now. These guys have picked me up.”
Severino helped out by picking up himself first. If he wasn’t the first pitcher to start an elimination game saddled with an 81.00 postseason ERA, we’d venture to guess it must be a very small fraternity. That’s not a number usually associated with a Yankees’ ace, and definitely a statistic that Severino was anxious to be rid of, as soon as possible.
The opportunity arrived with Game 4, and Severino had to take comfort in that it was virtually impossible for him to do any worse than his previous assignment. He just wasn’t himself during that miserable night against the Twins, as the emotional surge messed with the ability to command his pitches.
Fortunately for the Yankees, they got the real Severino when they needed him the most, and he kept Cleveland on lockdown for the first three innings, retiring 11 of 12. Severino had a few glitches in the middle innings, serving up a two-run homer to Carlos Santana in the fourth and a solo shot to Roberto Perez in the fifth that trimmed the lead to a worrisome 5-3. From there, Severino stifled the Indians, setting down eight of the final nine to quash any lingering comeback fantasy. The devastating slider was back, with its wicked late bend coming hard at 91 mph, and the fastball hummed along at the usual 97-99.
“I told him after the game, he grew up today,” Girardi said. “He started to get tired after the six innings and it was the part of the lineup giving him trouble and he was able to get the extra inning, which was good for our bullpen. To me, that’s growing up.”
Not to mention Severino, a mature 23, knowing the importance of the past two wins for the embattled Girardi.
“I think Joe is a great manager,” Severino said. “He’s human. You can make mistakes.”
As the Yankees proved again Monday night, you can fix them, too.
Luis Severino redeemed himself Monday night for a poor showing in last Tuesday’s wild-card game against the Twins. Comparing his numbers in the two games:
WILD-CARD GAME ALDS GAME 4