|Luis Severino with some swagger as he shuts down Toronto. @Yankees.|
Luis Severino was one of the biggest question marks for the Yankees entering the season, and he has put a lot of those to rest with his strong start to the season.
The onetime ace of the staff missed the past two seasons, aside from making a cameo in a relief role last September so there were concerns he would replicate that dominance.
The right-hander made it through spring training healthy, aside from concerns about soreness, which would not have been a concern for most pitchers, but with Severino, couldn't blame the Yankees for worrying.
Severino made his season debut in the second game of the year (yes, he is slotted in the rotation second behind ace Gerrit Cole) against the Boston Red Sox, and he turned in a fine outing in his first start since September 2019, as he went three innings allowing two runs on five hit and no walks, while striking out five. He threw 65 pitches, 41 of which were strikes.
Next up for Severino was a major test on Thursday against the high-powered Toronto Blue Jays offense, and he turned it up to 11.
Severino through five innings of shutout ball, allowing just two hits and two walks, with six strikeouts, as the Yankees went on to win 3-0 and split the series with the Jays. Though it's the first week of the season, this felt like a pivotal game in the tight American League East, as the Yankees improved to 4-3, same as Toronto.
This was Severino's first victory since September 22, 2019, which was also against Toronto. Ironically, that night he also held Toronto scoreless over five innings. Thursday night was the 13th time that Severino held a team scoreless in his outing.
The highlight of the night for Severino was that he struck out Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., and per the YES Network, the first pitcher to complete the feat against one of the most disciplined hitters in baseball.
The Yankees gave Severino the early lead in the third inning in a wacky way. With one out, Yankees shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa lined one to third base that third baseman Santiago Espinal misjudged. Espinal went to his left, thinking the hit would go into the hole, and instead it went toward the line over his outstretched glove.
With Kiner-Falefa at first, Jays pitcher Kevin Gausman was called for a balk, that Toronto looked at questionably as it was called due to the patter of his left foot on his windup.
With Kiner-Falefa at second, Yankees catcher Jose Trevino singled him home to make it 1-0 Yankees.
Then, in the fifth, the pair of old Texas Rangers teammates struck again, With two outs, Kiner-Falefa doubled and Trevino singled him home to make it 2-0.
It stayed that way until the bottom of the eighth when the Yankees manufactured what turned into a major insurance run.
Aaron Judge, who made a rare appearance in center field, led off the inning with a double to centeer field, then moved to third on a groundout by Anthony Rizzo, and came into score on another groundout by Giancarlo Stanton to make it 3-0. This was a perfect example of how the biggest bats in the Yankees order can play small ball.
Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman came on to close it out in the ninth, and he did not have his characteristic pinpoint control. He walked Cavan Biggio, Santiago Espinal, and Matt Chapman, who was pinch-hitting for Bradley Zimmer. While Chapman was up, he threw a wild pitch allowing the first two runners to move up to second and third, and accentuated that he didn't have it.
Yankees Manager Aaron Boone proceeded to make the guts move to go get his closer and turn to big right-hander Michael King to get them out of it as Toronto's line-up turned over.
King responded with a strike out of George Springer, and then induced Bo Bichette to hit into a double play to end the game in stunning fashion.
That capped a tough night for the top of Toronto's lineup, as Springer went 0-for-4 with a strikeouts, Bichette went 1-for-5 (his lone hit was a double in the first inning), and Gurrero, Jr. went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts (3 against Severino and 1 against Clay Holmes.
It was King's first career save, as he continues the strong start to his season.