Yankees bullpen secures Game 2 after Luis Severino gives up Game 1

A scene from Yankees vs. Cardinals game on July 1, 2023, at Busch Stadium.
Michael Bennington
Sunday July 2, 2023

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ST. LOUIS — In Game 1 of Saturday’s doubleheader, Yankees starter  Luis Severino allowed the Cardinals to get better off his team. However, the Yankees found solace in their reliable bullpen that reversed the setback in Game 2 to level the series.

The Yankees bullpen, which has consistently come to the team’s aid throughout the season, made sure the Cardinals won’t take an unassailable lead in Game 2 and in the series. This dependable relief corps spared them from what could have been a humiliating sweep, salvaging their pride in a critical moment.

The Yankees bullpen made the difference

In the first game of Saturday’s split doubleheader at Busch Stadium, Luis Severino endured one of the most challenging performances of his career, resulting in an 11-4 loss to the Cardinals. However, the Yankees found redemption in the nightcap as their bullpen stepped up and delivered a commendable performance, securing a 6-2 victory.

In the second game, the Yankees (46-37) opted for a “bullpen game” strategy. Initially, Ian Hamilton surrendered a run in the first inning. However, the collective efforts of Ron Marinaccio, Michael King, Wandy Peralta, Tommy Kahnle, and Clay Holmes limited the opposition to just one additional run for the remainder of the game.

Among the standout performers in Game 2 was Michael King, who aspires to become a future big-league starter. He dazzled brightly during the match, particularly in the third inning when he entered the game with the bases loaded and two outs. Displaying composure under pressure, he induced a groundout to preserve the Yankees’ narrow 3-2 lead.

That marked the beginning of an exceptional 3 1/3, during which only one hit was surrendered by Michael King while striking out two batters. The seventh inning remained scoreless thanks to Wandy Peralta’s stellar performance. Tommy Kahnle followed suit in the eighth inning, maintaining the scoreless trend. Clay Holmes then continued the dominant display in the ninth inning, securing his 10th save in 12 attempts and keeping the opposition off the scoreboard.

Yankees bullpen in 2023

Bader, Volpe came to assist

The Yankees wasted no time in making their impact felt, capitalizing on the early opportunities. Former Cardinal Harrison Bader, warmly welcomed by a standing ovation as he stepped up with the bases loaded in the first inning, expressed his gratitude by tipping his cap and touching his heart. He proceeded to drive in a run with a sacrifice fly, granting the Yankees a 1-0 lead. However, their advantage was short-lived as Lars Nootbar countered with a home run off Ian Hamilton, knotting the score in the bottom half of the inning.

Undeterred, the Yankees rallied in the second, with Anthony Volpe delivering an RBI triple and DJ LeMahieu contributing a sacrifice fly, resulting in two runs crossing the plate.

In the ninth inning, the Yankees extended their lead to 6-2. Following a patient one-out walk by Isiah Kiner-Falefa and a well-placed single by Volpe, putting runners on the corners, Jose Trevino executed a perfectly executed safety-squeeze bunt, allowing Kiner-Falefa to score. The momentum continued as Gleyber Torres stepped up and delivered a clutch single, driving in two more runs and solidifying the Yankees’ commanding advantage.

Yankees face Severino problem

On the other hand, Severino’s performance during the afternoon was nothing short of a train wreck, marred by difficulties and mishaps.

After showcasing his dominance in his previous start with an impressive six scoreless innings against the formidable Rangers, which could be considered his best performance of the season, Severino experienced a complete reversal in his latest outing. The stark contrast between these two games was evident, leaving observers bewildered by his unexpected downturn in form.

Severino had a poor stretch of four and a half forgettable innings where he had trouble avoiding hard contact. This led to a mix of loud outs and a bunch of hits. Because of how he played, he got the worst the result, as the other team took advantage and hurt the scoreboard.

The starter expressed that he was not fulfilling his responsibilities and acknowledged his concern about the entirety of the year. He expressed his desire to contribute to his team’s success and conveyed his frustration at the current inability to do so.

Severino, who had given up just five hits in the Yankees’ 1-0 triumph over Texas the previous Saturday, experienced a stark contrast as he surrendered nine runs (seven earned) and nine hits in a span of four innings-plus. This performance further lowered his record to 1-3, accompanied by a disappointing 6.30 ERA.

Recognizing the escalating situation, Aaron Boone made the decision to remove Severino from the game after allowing two runners on base with no outs in the fifth inning. This pivotal moment coincided with a four-run surge from the Cardinals, propelling them to an imposing 11-0 lead.

Boone remarked that Severino’s overall performance was lacking sharpness. He acknowledged that there are several aspects that can help him regain his form. Boone noted that Severino is in good health and his fastball is still effective. However, the key focus should be on improving his command and ensuring consistency in the quality of his pitches from one outing to another.

As the score reached 11-1 in favor of the opposing team by the start of the bottom of the seventh inning, a drenching thunderstorm swept in, causing a delay of 2 hours and 19 minutes. The storm brought along gusts of wind ranging from 50 to 60 mph. Following the Yankees’ turn at bat in the eighth inning, another rain delay ensued, lasting for 18 minutes. Coincidentally, the rain returned just as the Yankees managed to secure three late runs in the ninth inning, with two of them attributed to Jake Bauers‘ home run, although the overall impact of these runs could be considered insignificant in terms of the game’s outcome.

An unlikely pitcher

Josh Donaldson, who had previous pitching experience in high school and college, took the mound as the Yankees’ fifth pitcher during the afternoon. In an impressive display, he efficiently retired the Cardinals’ batters in order, accomplishing the task in just 11 pitches during the eighth inning.

Meanwhile, the Yankees’ offense struggled against Jack Flaherty and the Cardinals’ bullpen, resulting in a shutout. The Cardinals outperformed the Yankees in the hit column, tallying 12 hits compared to the Yankees’ 10. Despite entering the game with a 4-5 record and a 4.95 ERA, Flaherty showcased his skills by limiting the Yankees to four hits and two walks over six innings. The talented right-hander also recorded four strikeouts during his outing.

AP Photo

In the third inning, the Cardinals managed to score five runs, followed by two more runs in the fourth inning, and an additional four runs in the fifth inning, allowing them to secure a commanding 11-0 lead. When asked about his struggles in finding consistency with his off-speed pitches, particularly his slider, since returning from the injured list on May 21, Severino expressed uncertainty. Despite feeling confident about his performance leading up to the game, he acknowledged the challenges he faced. Severino believed that the Cardinals didn’t make solid contact against his fastball, but they were able to capitalize on his breaking pitches.

The Cardinals showed how good they were at hitting by putting 10 batters to the plate in the third inning. Tommy Edman and Andrew Knizner, who were eighth and ninth in the lineup, each hit a single to start the comeback. Even though Lars Nootbar was stopped by a great running catch by Jake Bauers in the corner of left field, the Cardinals kept coming at him. Paul Goldschmidt took advantage of the chance and hit a well-placed slider just over the right-center field wall for his 15th home run of the season, giving the Cardinals a 3-0 lead. The Cardinals’ lead grew to 5-0 when Alec Burleson and Paul DeJong each hit a single that drove in a run.

Severino’s struggles continued in the fifth inning as he allowed a leadoff double to Alec Burleson and issued a walk to Paul DeJong. This prompted Aaron Boone to make a pitching change, replacing Severino with left-handed pitcher Matt Krook. However, the Cardinals took advantage of the situation. Edman delivered an RBI single, followed by a two-run double from Knizner. Paul Goldschmidt contributed a sacrifice fly, further widening the Cardinals’ lead to 11-0.

Severino expressed that he was currently experiencing his lowest point. He acknowledged that making excuses would not be productive and emphasized the need to find a way to achieve consistency and effectively retire opposing batters.

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