Despite having a 5.57 ERA in the second half of the season and throwing four-plus innings in the wild-card game, Yankees RHP Luis Severino is confident he can give New York a 2-1 series lead over the Boston Red Sox in Game 3 of the ALDS on Monday.
"I feel like in baseball it's more important [in] the second half than the first half," Severino said at Sunday's press conference. "I don't know why that is, but I always have confidence in myself. I know my struggle, and I know what it was that wasn't working that time. So I never lose my confidence in myself. The last couple outings, I came back and doing a better job."
The 24-year-old Severino, who has pitched more than five innings just once in five postseason starts, faces Nathan Eovaldi and the Red Sox, a team against whom he has gone 2-2 with a 3.56 ERA in five starts this season.
Severino has fared well against the Red Sox at home. He threw 6 2/3 scoreless innings against them on July 1 and allowed one run in seven innings when he last faced them on Sept. 19. At Fenway Park, however, he is 0-2 with a 7.59 ERA.
Asked about what he's learned about facing the Red Sox so many times, Severino wouldn't provide much information.
"I can't tell you the specific details because they're going to know," he said. "Maybe I can tell you tomorrow. I've got to say they have a good lineup, and I need to hit my spots, don't do mistakes, and try to go deep in my game."
Since lasting just 1/3 of an inning in last year's wild-card game, Severino is 1-1 with a 3.20 ERA in four playoff starts, however he has pitched past the fifth inning just once. He pitched four and 4 2/3 innings in two starts in last year's ALCS, then was pulled in the fifth inning in Wednesday's wild-card game against the Oakland A's.
He has larger expectations for Monday.
"This time I want to try to get to seven and then let the bullpen do their job," he said.
While manager Aaron Boone hasn't been afraid to deploy his bullpen early in postseason games, he said he's open to Severino pitching for however long he is effective.
"... it could be three, could be four, could be -- but I'm still open to it being eight innings," Boone said. "I want him to go out and be himself and go out there and look to really set the tone for us and throw his game, and if he does that, hopefully, we'll be in a good spot at any time when we take him out tomorrow."
Severino's home-road splits have been fairly significant this season. On the road, he is 9-6 with a 3.99 ERA, but he is 10-2 with a 2.74 ERA at Yankee Stadium. He offered one suggestion for his success at home.
"Maybe my wife cooks better food here. I don't know. I'm not sure," he said. "I think it's just feeling like I'm at home. I feel like it's very good, but I can't tell you any specific reason for it."
Severino has also fared best with Gary Sanchez behind the plate. He has held batters to a .228 batting average and recorded a 3.00 ERA in 81 innings with Sanchez, while his ERA is 3.65 and opponents' batting average .250 with Austin Romine catching.
Of course, Sanchez's presence in the lineup, especially given his two home runs in Saturday's Game 2 win, is important, but Boone said his role as a game caller and on defense cannot be underestimated.
"I really feel strongly that 90, 95 percent of the stuff we're seeing was really impactful behind the plate," Boone said. "He's been able to do that so far in the postseason, limiting the mistakes. I think he's been really sharp from behind the plate from a receiving, blocking, game planning, game calling, really on top of his game."
Both Sanchez and Severino have dealt with their struggles this season. For as much as Boone said he's seen Sanchez make strides, he said he felt Severino has sharpened his mechanics and his command later in the season.
"I felt like there were some minor things that he could do from just a sharpening of the stuff, sharpening of the command, missing location a little bit too much over the course of games," Boone said. "We saw him start to get that back towards the end of the season. We started to see him really turn the corner at the end of the season and, I think, kind of get that swagger and that confidence back that he has when he's going so well."
That's what the Yankees will need in order to take a series lead against Boston.