LOS ANGELES — With Clayton Kershaw and Luis Severino on the hill, the Yankees’ series opener against the Dodgers had the pieces in place for a pitching duel. But only Kershaw held his end of the bargain as the Dodgers won 8-4.
Severino faced adversity from the jump, as Mookie Betts hosted the right-hander at Dodger Stadium with a first home run. The outburst — one of two for Betts in the game — set the tone for a first six run for Los Angeles, which also received a two-run homer from Max Muncy.
Former Red Sox slugger JD Martinez added a solo shot in the third. Overall, Severino had four innings, nine hits, seven earned runs, three home runs, one walk, two strikeouts and 13 hard-hit walks on 83 pitches in his third start of the season.
“I was missing a lot of shots,” Severino said afterwards. “Missed Mookie Betts, an inside throw. And it’s a good team. They have good hitters and I had to minimize those errors.
While Severino blamed his misfortunes on poor command, his one-night break coincided with a 2.3mph drop in his average fastball speed. Severino came into the game averaging 97.3 mph on his heater after two starts, but the pitch was averaging 95 mph on Friday.
Severino said he was unaware of his reduced speed during the game and trusted his heater throughout the game. But he only threw five fastballs in his last frame.
“I think they were on the fastball,” Severino explained. “So I just needed to mix it up a bit.”
In addition to the fastball, Severino’s cutter dipped 2.8 mph, while his slider and shift also came in slower than usual. He added that he will review his speed when he reviews the start on Saturday.
“The main thing is location,” Severino said. “I can throw 95 anywhere I want – I prefer to throw 99 wherever I want – but 95 I can get through programming.”
Aaron Boone said Severino was ‘just a tick tonight’ but the manager also played down the reduced speed. Asked about Severino’s potential to swing his pitches, the manager said: “We’ll look into everything.”
Severino said much the same while reiterating that he felt control was costing him.
“For me, the most important thing was the location,” he repeated. “Even if I did tip, I have to improve. It’s the big leagues, and if I did tip, I’ll watch and see. But anyway, if I did tip, it’s my fault.
As Severino struggled, Kershaw pitched well despite mistakes from Josh Donaldson and Giancarlo Stanton. The two homered when they returned from the disabled list, but the jacks were barely enough for the Yankees to get over the first hole they found themselves on.
Kershaw had seven innings, four hits, two earned runs, one walk and nine strikeouts on 96 pitches.
Donaldson went wide again in the ninth for a two-run shot, giving the former MVP his first two-home run game since June 11, 2021. The third baseman hasn’t hit regularly since joining the team last year, but Boone remained adamant that Donaldson can still be an offensive force.
The skipper reaffirmed those beliefs on Friday.
“The guy has been a destruction machine his whole life,” Boone said. “He has that skill set. He still has that power, that tic, that bat speed. I know it’s in there.
“It was really good to see him go out and get results from the start. Hopefully that can boost him a bit because when he’s right he’s a great player. When you’ve been out for a while and you get results like him, hopefully this is something that goes far and gets him rolling.
Donaldson, after playing in the majors for the first time since April 5, shared similar sentiments after the game. But he also didn’t want to read too much in his first game.
“Today is a day,” Donaldson said. “I have to go out and start again tomorrow.”