Severino’s counterpart, Homer Bailey, was decidedly less intimidating than the previous two pitchers Severino had dueled — Felix Hernandez of Seattle six days earlier and Chris Sale of Boston on July 15 — and aside from Joey Votto, the Reds’ lineup was significantly less formidable than that of the Mariners or the Red Sox.
Still, Severino’s performance drew high praise from his manager. “That was maybe some of the best stuff he’s had all year long,” Girardi said.
The admission that Severino had become Girardi’s ace was hardly surprising, considering the way he has pitched for most of this season, and taking into account the struggles of Masahiro Tanaka, the erstwhile occupant of that role.
But considering that a year ago on this date Severino was 0-6 with an earned run average above 7.00 and had just been recalled for the first of three times from Class AAA, his current form is stunning.
“He’s got the stuff,” Sabathia said. “His stuff is very electric. His changeup has been a big key for him this year. Throwing that into the mix, he throws 100 miles per hour the whole game with a nasty slider and he throws that changeup in there, it makes a big difference.”
The contrast between his fastball and his changeup, which moseys in at around 86 m.p.h., makes it uncomfortable to bat against him.
“When a guy throws 98-plus, you can’t sit on anything else but his fastball,” said Todd Frazier, who hit his first home run as a Yankee in a five-run seventh inning. “You saw how off-balance the hitters were. Everything he throws looks like a strike. It’s frustrating to the hitters.”
Severino limited the Reds to two singles by Votto, in the first and fourth innings, and a run-scoring double by Eugenio Suarez in the seventh. Suarez later scored in the inning, on an infield out, but both runs were unearned because the rally had started on a throwing error by Didi Gregorius. Severino has not allowed an earned run since the third inning of that July 15 game in Boston, a span of 18 ⅓ innings.
“I’m satisfied with the work I’m doing right now,” said Severino, who is 7-4 with a 3.03 E.R.A. “I have a lot of confidence right now, especially in my changeup. I can throw my changeup in any count. That’s the difference from last year.”
But when asked if he agreed with his manager’s assessment that he is now the ace of the pitching staff, Severino throttled back for the first time all day.
“Like I always say, there are a lot of guys here that I know are way better,” he said. “C. C.’s got a lot of years here. Tanaka had a great year last year. I got to keep doing this for five or six years and we’ll see what happens.”
The Yankees had a 2-0 lead after five innings, scoring both runs on singles by Clint Frazier, who has driven in 18 runs in his first 18 major league games. They added two unearned runs in the sixth when Chase Headley singled in Gregorius, who reached on a two-base throwing error by Peraza, and an infield out by Ronald Torreyes that scored Headley. The Yankees tacked on five runs in the seventh on a double by Gary Sanchez and a single by Matt Holliday that chased Bailey, and home runs by Gregorius and Todd Frazier off reliever Tony Cingrani.
After Severino left the game, Yankees reliever Luis Cessa allowed a three-run homer to Adam Duvall in the eighth to account for the rest of the Cincinnati runs.
The win, which completed a two-game series sweep over the Reds, was the Yankees’ fifth in their last six games and left them seven games over .500 for the first time since June 25. It also left them a game behind Boston in the American League East, after the Red Sox beat the Seattle Mariners, 4-0.