NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Luis Severino has been a lot more up than down this season, but his inconsistent second half has a lot of Yankees fans concerned.
Apparently, manager Aaron Boone is not among them.
Boone ended the suspense on Tuesday by naming Severino the Yankees’ starter for Wednesday night’s wild-card game against the visiting Oakland Athletics.
“I think he’s equipped in so many ways to handle this, and perhaps most importantly, he’s equipped with amazing stuff and the ability to dominate big league hitters because he’s such a talented pitcher,” Boone said.
Severino (19-8, 3.39 ERA) has been considered the team’s ace all season, but really hasn’t pitched like one since mid-July. Following a five-inning performance in an 8-5 victory at Toronto on July 7, his record was 14-2 and his ERA was 2.12. He was on the short list of contenders for the AL Cy Young Award.
But then he either hit a wall or was figured out because he went 5-6 with a 5.69 ERA over his final 13 starts. If there is a silver lining, the 24-year-old right-hander allowed just four earned runs over his final three starts, spanning 17 2-3 innings.
“(It) means a lot,” Severino said of getting the ball Wednesday. “Means (Boone) trusts me, (believes) that I can be good. I can be better. You guys know me. I can struggle and still be better the next start.”
In two starts against the A’s this season, Severino allowed six earned runs in 8 2/3 innings, including five earned in 2 2/3 innings in an 8-2 loss in Oakland on Sept. 5.
Severino started the wild-card game against the Minnesota Twins last October and recorded just one out. He allowed four hits, including two home runs, and three earned runs, but the Yankees picked him up on their way to an 8-4 victory.
“I was too excited,” Severino said. “It was a good experience. Now I’ll take that tomorrow and try to treat that game like a regular game.”
The decision to go with Severino could bode well for the Yankees if they end up advancing to the Division Series against Boston. J.A. Happ (17-6, 3.65), who is 7-0 with a 2.69 ERA in starts for New York since coming over in a trade with Toronto on July 26, has pitched extremely well against the Red Sox in his career, going 8-4 with a 2.98 ERA in 20 career appearances.
If the Yankees win Wednesday, expect Happ to pitch in Game 1 on Friday at Fenway Park and in a potential deciding Game 5, which would also be played in Boston.
The other candidate to start the wild-card game, Masahiro Tanaka, would likely pitch Game 2 at Fenway on Saturday. The 29-year-old right-hander, who finished 12-6 with a 3.75 ERA, is coming off a pair of poor starts to end the regular season, but was outstanding in the playoffs last season for the Yankees, going 2-1 with a 0.90 ERA as New York advanced to Game 7 of the ALCS before losing to the eventual World Series Champion Houston Astros.
Boone also confirmed that Gary Sanchez, who has struggled through a nightmare season filled with injuries and problems both at and behind the plate, will catch the wild-card game.