Luis Severino gets the start for the New York Yankees in ALDS Game 3. Here are three things to expect from him against the Minnesota Twins.
After kicking off their 2019 playoff run with wins at home in ALDS Games 1 and 2 against the Twins this weekend, the Yankees head to Minnesota with all the reasons in the world to be confident that they will advance to the ALCS.
James Paxton wasn’t fantastic in his start on Friday night but gave the Yankees enough to keep them in the game before they pulled away for a 10-4 win. On Saturday, Masahairo Tanaka turned in a vintage “playoff Tanaka” start, holding the Twins to just one earned run and three hits in five innings while striking out seven.
For Game 3, the Yankees will hand the ball to Luis Severino, who is looking for revenge against the Twins after getting shellacked in his 2017 Wild Card Game start against them—a start in which he recorded just one out. Severino only made three starts for the Yankees in 2019, as he spent much of the year on the Injured List.
Despite this small sample size of starts this season, given Severino’s career tendencies and the way manager Aaron Boone has managed the ALDS so far, we have a decent enough idea of what to expect from Severino when he toes the rubber at Target Field on Monday night.
1. Expect him to have a short leash
This is not a knock on Severino in any way, shape or form. It’s no secret that the Yankees have assembled one of the most formidable bullpens in recent history, and Boone shown in the last two games that he will not be shy to pull the plug on his starters early this October and hand the ball off to his reliable group of relievers.
On Friday night, Paxton wasn’t his sharpest, so Boone turned to an array of six relievers to get the final 13 outs. Then on Saturday, even though Tanaka was dealing, Boone pulled him after just 83 pitches before turning to Tommy Kahnle, Adam Ottavino, Tyler Lyons and Jonathan Loaisiga to finish the job.
As is standard with pitchers returning from injury, Boone stretched out Severino and gave him a longer leash each start with how many pitches he’d be allowed to throw. With that being said, Severino never threw more than 80 pitches in any of his starts once he returned. He could likely give the Yankees something like 90 pitches on Monday night but given his recent injury and Boone’s unabashed willingness to hand the ball off to his talented core of relievers, don’t expect the team to overextend Severino more than necessary, especially since they want him to be ready to pitch against Houston early in the series if they advance to the ALCS.
2. Expect to see him rely on his fastball
In the process of hitting an MLB record 307 homers this season, the Twins feasted on fastballs this year, but that shouldn’t deter Severino from relying to his go-to pitch on Monday. In his three starts, Severino threw 57% fastballs, 27% sliders and 16% changeups, numbers that roughly matchup with his career usage rates of those three pitches.
His average fastball in those three starts measured 96 MPH on the radar gun, rather impressive from a pitcher who missed much of the year with a shoulder injury. Batters went just 2-20 with eight strikeouts and zero extra base hits off of Severino off his fastball in his three appearances, so it wasn’t just the pitch he went to most, it was also clearly his most effective pitch.
He will certainly mix in his slider and changeup against a team that hits fastballs so well, but his fastball is no question his best pitch, and he won’t shy away from his strength just because it also happens to be a strength of the team he’s facing.
3. Expect to see him pitch around Nelson Cruz and Marwin Gonzalez
Severino is known for his fierce tenacity on the mound and his ability to go right at hitters without “nibbling”, but two Twins hitters who have seen some success against him are Nelson Cruz and Marwin Gonzalez. Admittedly, the sample size is far from significant for any of these Twins hitters against Severino, as only one of the hitters on their roster (Jonathan Schoop) has recorded more than 10 at bats against him.
However, Cruz has gone 4-8 with a double off of Severino when they’ve squared off in the past, while Marwin Gonzalez has homered and walked three times in 12 plate appearances, suggesting that Severino has pitched around him when they’ve gone up against each other. The 38-year-old Cruz, who tied for third in the AL with 41 homers in the regular season, has already shown this series that he’s a hitter to be feared, as his homer off of Paxton in Game 1 extended the Twins’ early lead to 2-0. Gonzalez, no stranger to the playoffs after appearing in the postseason with the Astros in 2015, 2017 and 2018, recorded two hits in Game 1 proving that he is another key cog in the Twins lineup who is far from an easy out.
There’s no question that Miguel Sano, Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco and plenty of other Twins are also more than capable of coming up with a big hit this series, but when taking career stats against Severino and success in this series so far into account, Cruz and Gonzalez stand out as two hitters who could give him a hard time.