Luis Severino’s return was worth the wait.
The Yankees right-hander, making his first start in more than two months, looked sharp across five innings Wednesday night in a 14-2 win over the Pirates in The Bronx.
Still building up his workload after making three rehab starts, Severino, who had been on the injured list with a strained right lat, threw an efficient 64 pitches while giving up one run on two hits and one walk, with six strikeouts.
“I was just happy to be back with the team, finally come back and help in any way that I can,” Severino said. “I feel really good. I feel confident and ready to get another start.”
The schedule will allow Severino to make two more starts in the regular season, against the Blue Jays and Orioles, after which he should be close to fully built up for the playoffs.
The Yankees need Severino to deliver more of what he flashed Wednesday night to give them a better shot of making a deep playoff run. The 28-year-old likely would serve as their Game 2 or 3 starter in a series.
“I liked what I saw tonight,” Aaron Judge said. “He’s a bulldog on the mound and he’s definitely going to be a big piece down the stretch.”
Severino, who had not pitched since July 13, lowered his season ERA to 3.36.
“Wow, I thought he was great,” manager Aaron Boone said. “For as good as he’s been this year, I thought it was the best fastball he had maybe all year. … I thought he was really sharp. The stuff was there and he looked strong and healthy.”
Severino didn’t show many signs of rust. He came out firing and his four-seam fastball topped out at 98.9 mph while averaging 97.2 mph — up 1.1 mph from his season average.
“I got 60-something days to rest, so it was a little better,” Severino, who had repeatedly pointed out he was upset about being transferred to the 60-day IL, said with a grin.
Severino issued a leadoff walk to Oneil Cruz to begin the game before the second batter, Bryan Reynolds, reached on a fielder’s choice when Josh Donaldson was late to cover second base on a ground ball into the shift. That put runners on first and second, but Severino buckled down. He struck out Rodolfo Castro looking and got Ben Gamel to ground into a double play.
The Pirates didn’t get another base runner until the fourth inning, when Castro and Gamel hit back-to-back singles. Ke’Bryan Hayes then put them on the board with a sacrifice fly that made it 4-1.
But Severino finished his night in style, tossing a six-pitch fifth inning.
“For the first time in my life, I was not trying to strike out everybody,” Severino said. “I was trying to save my pitches and get a quick inning. … I was gonna get mad if I threw less than five innings.”