Luis Severino's performance in Sunday's 8-3 win over the Blue Jays shot a jolt of energy not just into the fans in attendance at Yankee Stadium or those watching at home, but it has nearly broken up the perceived playoff lineup for the Yankees as a whole.
The righty came into the day starting just his second game of the year, having missed nearly the entire season due to shoulder and lat injuries. But after already performing well in his first start the week before, he took things to another level on Sunday.
Severino upped his pitching total to 80 after being restricted to 67 in his first start, and did some damage with the time he had on the mound. For the second straight game, he shutout the opponent, allowing just three hits and striking out nine batters.
Now through two games, his ERA remains at 0.00 with one more start expected before the end of the regular season. In 11 innings of action, he's given up five hits and two walks, while striking out 13 batters.
His first start showed that even though there was certainly some rust to shake off -- he threw 12 pitches to the first batter he faced -- there were flashes of an ace still in his bag of tricks.
Early performances like these, combined with the unexpected placement of Domingo German on administrative leave due to the MLB/MLBPA's joint domestic violence policy, has left Aaron Boone with an intriguing decision to make as the playoffs approach.
German was set to be a surefire starter for the Yankees in the playoffs after being the best man in the rotation to take the mound for New York in the regular season. Before being put on leave, German had an 18-4 record to go with a 4.03 ERA and 153 strikeouts.
But now, German has been plucked out of the lineup, leaving a hole for the Yankees as who could start Game 3 of the ALDS.
James Paxton has been on an absolute tear since the beginning of August, winning 10 straight games and lowering his ERA by nearly one in that span. So he's definitely in for Game 1.
Then there's Masahiro Tanaka, who has had some good performances and some shakey ones at best this season, but he's a constant in the rotation and has cut his ERA by 0.50 over the last two months. Place a checkmark on him to start, as well.
That leaves the final spot up for grabs. A spot that initially seemed too early for Luis Severino to fill and would've probably gone to J.A. Happ had Severino not returned.
But Severino has, and he's pitching lights out in his short stints, while in the interim, Happ has been shifted to the bullpen for the remainder of the regular season.
With the Yankees still battling for the best record in baseball and the Wild Card spots still undecided, Boone's decision may depend on who New York will face in the ALDS and on how Severino progresses through the final week of September.
By the looks of how Severino's arm has performed so far this season, seeing the right-handed ace starting on the mound in the first round should not come as a surprise to anyone.