About Yesterday Afternoon: Yanks Beat Rangers 1-0 In A Pitcher's Duel
By Andy Singer
June 25th, 2023
The Big Story
The Yankees rode a gutsy start from Luis Severino and a timely solo home run from Billy McKinney to a 1-0 win over the AL East leading Texas Rangers. I know that this will come as a shock to all of you, but the Yankees’ offense only managed to scatter 3 singles aside from McKinney’s blast. Harrison Bader, Anthony Rizzo, and Giancarlo Stanton were the players who got the hits, so if you choose to look at the glass half full, at least the veterans decided to play baseball today. Beyond Sevy’s shutout performance, the bullpen was once again great, even if Boone tried to ruin that too (more in a minute). While it wasn’t totally satisfying, this was a good win for a Yankee team that needed it desperately.
A Deeper Dive
Sevy’s Return To The Light
This was far from the most dominant I’ve ever seen Luis Severino on a baseball mound, but this version was lightyears better than the guy we’ve seen in his most recent 4 starts prior to Saturday. Severino struck out just 4 batters in 6 innings, and even more telling, Sevy got just 4 swing and misses in his 95 pitches, an oddly low whiff rate that gives you an indication that Sevy wasn’t quite at his peak. However, Severino did get 16 called strikes, indicative of the fact that his command was significantly better than we’ve seen it at any other point this season. In fact, 3 of Sevy’s 4 strikeouts were on called strike threes with beautifully placed pitches on the black of the outside corner with his fastball, slider, and change-up, respectively.
Most interestingly, Severino again changed his pitch mix significantly, moving to something I’ve advocated for since he was in AA: Severino used his change-up on 26% of his pitches, and it was easily his most effective pitch against a potent Texas lineup, who averaged just 79.1 MPH Exit Velocity against the pitch. Sevy threw his slider just 6 times in the contest, a pitch he had previously leaned on. Instead, Sevy threw 16 cutters, though as I’ve said in the past, Sevy uses his cutter very similarly to a slider, and in yester-year, we would have referred to the pitch as a “short slider,” so I think Severino is just separating the shape of his slider into two pitches. I love Sevy’s change-up, and I think this recipe is repeatable against other lineups, so I hope Severino continues to fine-tune his arsenal based on the strategy he used today.
Beyond the statistics, Severino threw with confidence on Saturday, but it didn’t necessarily start that way. Sevy had two on with two out in the top of the 1st inning, and he allowed a single to right field. Lowe rounded third, and while most Yankee fans likely assumed the worst, Jake Bauers threw a laser to Higgy to end the inning with a brilliant outfield assist. Severino pitched much more like himself the rest of the way, and I can’t help but think that he got a boost from the fact that the guys behind him actually gave him a chance. This is something that won’t show up in the stat sheet, but I think a good defensive play to prevent runs in the first inning set the tone for the rest of Severino’s outing.
All-in, Sevy threw 6 shutout innings against one of the better lineups in the game, proving that he can still be an integral part of an elite rotation.
McKinney Gives The Yanks 1
Billy McKinney is one of the only Yankees making a consistent offensive impact in the month of June, and that trend continued on Saturday with an absolute bomb to right field in the bottom of the 4th inning. It was an impressive at-bat and an even more impressive piece of hitting.
After taking strike one, McKinney laid off three straight pitches to give himself a 3-1 count. McKinney got a fastball in the heart of the plate, and couldn’t capitalize, fouling it off. On the next pitch, Jon Gray threw a 97 MPH fastball just off the black of the plate at the bottom of the zone, but just in. Very few players have both the mechanics and the hands to pull through a pitch like that, with loft, and barrel it up. McKinney showed real ability in this moment, as this was not just a hanging meatball. The solo shot turned out to be the deciding run, and it was certainly the most important moment of the game.
Just marvel at this piece of hitting:
The Bullpen Gets It Done, Fighting The Rangers And Boone
The Yankees have two serious weapons in the back of the bullpen right now: Tommy Kahnle and Clay Holmes. Both were critical in Saturday’s game. Kahnle threw an 8-pitch 7th inning that didn’t yield any strikeouts, but also didn’t see anyone reach base. Wandy Peralta struggled in the 8th inning, allowing two baserunners to reach, but Holmes came in with his power sinker to get two quick outs to end the threat, ultimately striking out Josh Jung with runners at the corners.
As usual, the Yankees were playing against their manager in addition to the other team. Clay Holmes didn’t pitch on Friday, so after throwing just 9 pitches, one would think he could come back out for the 9th inning. Instead, Boone turned to Ron Marinaccio in the 9th inning, who hasn’t pitched in close to a week and depends on his change-up for success, the ultimate feel pitch besides a knuckleball. Marinaccio struggled mightily initially, allowing a hit and a walk largely because of a change-up he couldn’t locate effectively. To Marinaccio’s credit, he switched tactics, leaning on his fastball while just sprinkling the change-up in after the first two batters of the inning reached base. Marinaccio finished with two strikeouts and a lazy pop-up, but he never should have been put in a position to sweat it out.
Player Of The Game
Hard for me to pick anyone other than Billy McKinney, given that his solo shot was the only run scored in the entire game.
Luis Severino: 6 IP, 4 K, 2 BB, 5 H, 0 R
Clay Holmes: 0.2 IP, 1 K, 0 H, 0 BB, 0 R
Ron Marinaccio: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 2 K, 0 R, 1 SV
Anthony Volpe won’t show up in the box score Saturday, but he made some really slick plays at SS, fielding a couple of in-between hops cleanly.
Better To Forget
The Yankee offense, but no matter how many times I close my eyes, I still see it. Oh, and I’d like to forget that Boone manages the Yankees, but every game, he does something to remind me…this game was no different.
A win is a win, and that’s great. It was critical to get Sevy back on track and the Billy McKinney story is a lot of fun for those of us who have been around for a minute. However, as much as I’d like to enjoy the win, the Yankee offense was still pathetic, and even when the pitching is fantastic, Aaron Boone still tries to find a way to cost the Yankees a win. It’s all very upsetting, but it was nice to finally see a win.
Looking To Today
The Yanks look to actually win a series as their ace, Gerrit Cole, takes on Nate Eovaldi at 1:35 PM at Yankee Stadium. I’ll take a series win against the best team in the AL West, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself.