Luis Severino dealt, Isiah Kiner-Falefa came into himself and Michael King cleaned up a ninth-inning mess and saved the day, but the Yankees held on to beat the Blue Jays 3-0 at the Stadium Thursday night.
The Yankees split the four-game series and leave the Bronx with a little more of an idea of who they are as a team. They went 4-3 on the home stand against the Red Sox and Blue Jays, two of the teams they will certainly be battling for a playoff spot this year.
“I think we have a chance to be a really good team. I think we played a really good division where it’s gonna be super competitive all season all summer long,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said of what he knows about his team. “We’ve jumped right in here with the Red Sox and the Blue Jays. We’ve faced a lot of good arms. We’ve obviously faced good lineups and it’s gonna be a fun, tough season. Early signs say we’re equipped to handle this and my expectations are high.”
King earned his first big league save after Aroldis Chapman walked the first three batters he faced and Aaron Boone yanked him. With the bases loaded and no outs, King struck out George Springer on three pitches and then got Bo Bichette to pop into a game-ending double play.
“A ton of adrenaline and then just knowing you have to execute,” King said of coming in to that mess. “I wanted to pound the bottom zone, and tried to get a ground ball. Once I got to 0-2 on Springer I went for the punch out and then tried to do the same thing: go to ground ball and get a double play. We got it in a different way, but a ton of adrenaline and that was fun to do.”
They got another very encouraging starts from Luis Severino. Thursday night, the former Yankees ace showed he’s a much more complete pitcher than before he began a three-year journey through injuries. He held the dangerous Blue Jays lineup scoreless over five innings. He scattered two hits and two walks. He struck out six—that included striking out Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. three times (a first for the young Blue Jays slugger). Severino was jubilant after striking Guerrero, who had terrorized the Yankees the night before with three homers and a double, in the fifth.
“I knew that was my last hitter. So I knew if I didn’t Guerrero there I was going to be out. I haven’t thrown five innings in forever. I can’t remember,” Severino said. “It was really nice to be out there competing and help my team win.”
Severino, who pitched 27.2 innings over the last three years because of injuries, saw his velocity touched 100 miles per hour and he used a very effective mix of pitches to get 15 swings and misses, including six on his changeup and five on his cutter.
And the Yankees got a boost from the bottom of their lineup, which had been dormant to start the season.
They saw the bottom half of their lineup show signs of life. After starting his Yankee career 1-for-17, Isiah Kiner-Falefa broke out with two hits and scored two runs. He was driven in by Jose Trevino, who was his teammate with Texas before they were both dealt to the Yankees, on both plays. Trevino singled, doubled, stole a base and had two RBIs.
“He’s getting comfortable. It’s a big move from Texas to New York, it’s a big stage but I think Izzy’s going to handle it well,” Trevino said. “I’m excited to see him grow. I think he’s gonna be great here.”
And they got some manufactured runs from the big boys with Aaron Judge doubling to lead off the eighth, moved over by Anthony Rizzo and scored on Giancarlo Stanton’s ground out
“I do feel like offensively we’re very close. I feel like a number of our guys are in a pretty good place as far as at-bat quality, how they’re hitting the ball. I think we’ve hit some tough luck at times. I thought we hit a number of balls well last night,” Boone said. “Really with the exception of the (Blue Jays’ Alek Manoah) game, where he really shut us down and generated for the most part, a lot of weak contact. I feel like in the third game against the Red Sox where we didn’t get that big hit, although I felt like we had some at bats and situations with guys out there.”