Yankees’ playoff chances are fading fast as team finds newest rock bottom


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The New York Yankees made the right call by not starting Luis Severino in Wednesday night’s game against the Chicago White Sox. Every game matters for a team currently on the outside of the wild-card picture, and Severino does not give the Yankees their best chance of winning when he plays. Out of all pitchers who’ve thrown at least 60 innings in MLB this season, Severino’s 8.06 ERA ranks dead last.

So Yankees manager Aaron Boone had to do something different when it came to Severino’s turn in the rotation. He gave up 14 runs on 15 hits and five walks in 7 1/3 innings pitched in his last two outings. The time to replace Severino in the rotation likely should have been after his start on July 6 when he surrendered seven runs to Baltimore. He most definitely should’ve been replaced after July 30 when the Baltimore Orioles plated nine against him. But the Yankees allowed him to start one more time against the Houston Astros, and that backfired to no one’s surprise.

After that start against Houston, the team finally saw enough and had to go in a new direction. In Severino’s place on Wednesday, the Yankees used relief pitcher Ian Hamilton, who did his job as an opener. Hamilton threw just 10 pitches in the first inning and gave up just one walk. But then Boone went to the bullpen and brought in Severino in the second inning as the team’s bulk reliever. That, too, backfired because he’s been the worst pitcher in baseball, a title he gave himself after that second outing against Baltimore.

On Wednesday, Severino gave up four runs on five hits in two innings pitched en route to an embarrassing 9-2 loss to the White Sox, an organization that is currently the laughingstock of MLB. With the loss, the Yankees lost four of six to the White Sox this season, an astonishing result for a team that called itself “championship-caliber” three months ago. In their last 11 series, the Yankees are an appalling 1-7-3.

If the Yankees were committed to using Severino in this game, using an opener makes sense on paper. He had a 13.85 ERA in the first inning this season. But it’s still Severino’s “first inning” whenever he walks out of the bullpen in relief. The White Sox went double, single, home run in three of the first four batters Severino faced in the second inning, giving the Yankees a quick 3-0 hole. With as sharp as Hamilton was in the first inning, Boone was asked if he considered using him for a second inning.

“No, because we were going to Sevy today,” Boone said, via the YES Network. “I didn’t want to get to a situation where I was bringing Sevy into the middle of the inning. I’m still going to Sevy whether it’s the third inning. I just didn’t want to him to get in a situation where I’m bringing Sevy into the middle of an inning. I also wanted to keep Hamilton potentially in play for the first game potentially in Miami. The plan was gonna go one inning no matter what with him and then we were going to have to piece it together from there.”

It ultimately doesn’t matter when Boone decided to use Severino because the result likely would’ve been the same. Severino’s stuff has diminished. His fastball lacks the bite he once had that made him one of the best young pitchers in the game back in 2017 and 2018; now, it’s just a flat pitch that any major leaguer can do damage with. The lack of trust in his four-seamer has turned Severino from an overpowering pitcher into a junkballer; his fastball was his least used pitch on Wednesday.

It’s a sad decline for Severino, who once looked like he had the potential to become of the team’s all-time greats when he fully arrived on the scene in 2017. He finished third in Cy Young voting that season at just 23 years old. He was even better in the first half of his 2018 season. In his first 18 starts, Severino had a 1.98 ERA with 138 strikeouts in 118 innings, while opposing hitters averaged .195. The injuries started mounting for Severino in 2019 and continued every season since then.

The Yankees and Severino have continuously said all season long how he’s healthy. But if this is him pitching healthy, it’s beyond past a point where the Yankees can no longer afford to use Severino in any capacity moving forward. Any other pitcher on the 40-man roster gives them a better chance of winning.

“I’m just having the worst year of my life in baseball,” Severino said. “I’m not going to stop here. I’m gonna keep trying to get better.”

Severino said he’s willing to do whatever it takes to work through his issues, but it just can’t happen in an MLB game. The Yankees are 5 1/2 games back of the third wild-card spot. According to FanGraphs’ playoff odds predictor, the Yankees have an 8.4 percent chance of making the playoffs. Those odds won’t get any better with Severino pitching.

One issue with not having Severino pitch anymore is the Yankees will be without Carlos Rodón for at least two more weeks as he recovers from a strained hamstring, so the team is already short one man in the rotation. Randy Vásquez will likely take Rodón’s spot in the rotation on Friday against the Marlins. Jhony Brito could eventually take over for Severino but he can’t be called up before Severino’s next start without someone going on the injured list. The Yankees could go another bullpen game in place of Severino his next time around if no one goes down with an injury.

“We’re also having a little problem with enough bodies right now,” Boone said about how much longer he can keep using Severino. “We got to find a way and that means unlocking people who are going through scuffles. If that doesn’t happen, on some level, it ain’t happening. We need to get some guys turned around and (become) contributors. Sevy is part of that.”

Boone is right that they have to unlock people in order for the team to achieve their goals, but it’s August 10. There are under two months of the regular season remaining. As Boone said, at some point, it ain’t happening. We’ve reached this stage with the Yankees. It’s just not their year. The last series they won against non-bottom two teams (A’s and Royals) was the final weekend of June. They have a plus-41 run differential in nine games against Oakland and Kansas City. They have a minus-42 run differential in 106 games versus the rest of baseball.

The hope for the Yankees was when Aaron Judge returned things would magically get better. Since Judge’s return from his torn toe ligament, the team is 5-8 and they’ve scored three or fewer runs in eight of the 13 games. In this three-game series, the offense looked as bad as it has all season long — and lest we forget, this team fired its hitting coach midway through the season.

Against the White Sox, the Yankees struck out 38 times, good for a 47 percent strikeout rate. They were 3-for-26 with runners in scoring position. They left 29 runners on base. And this performance came against the team with the sixth-worst team ERA.

Judge was asked if he was concerned with where this team stands and what gives him hope of it turning around for the Yankees.

“I wouldn’t say that,” Judge said. “We just haven’t seen it yet. There’s a lot of ups and downs. I have confidence in these guys. The at-bats we’re having, guys taking their walks and getting on base, now it’s about getting the next step and getting that big hit.”

Maybe a bit tongue-in-cheek, but Judge also said he doesn’t allow himself to check the standings until it matters most.

“I’ll look at the standings right before the postseason starts,” Judge said.

In the 2000 NBA Slam Dunk Contest, Toronto Raptors star Vince Carter executed the cleanest between-the-legs windmill dunk the world had seen. He then looked into a television camera and said, “It’s over.” After losing two of three to the White Sox, there may not be a reason for Judge to check the standings in October.

It’s almost time to break out the GIF on the Yankees’ playoff chances.

(Photo of Luis Severino: Melissa Tamez / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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