In the first inning of a showcase series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Luis Severino took the spotlight off the Yankees' chances of competing and put it firmly on his juice-less right arm.
This was Severino's third start of the season, and the first two went swimmingly. In his 2023 debut against the Reds, the Yankees went by the book and removed him once he surpassed his prescribed pitch count. In the follow-up outing against the Padres, he touched 100, rested at 99 for a significant portion of the outing, and made it through 6.2 innings of one-hit ball on just 82 pitches.
On Friday night at Chavez Ravine, Severino was as hittable as he's ever been in the bottom of the first inning, surrendering a leadoff home run, seven more hits, and only getting bailed out by a pickoff throw into third for the final out. Without that bit of Jose Trevino trickery, who knows how long his flattened first inning would've lasted?
Severino's velocity in that nightmare frame was down nearly 2 MPH from his established average; often, he sat at 94. Once, in the second inning, he topped out at 92. Was something wrong? Was he physically exhausted? In the postgame scrum, he didn't admit to any of that, and placed the blame firmly on his poor command -- which, let's face it, was also an issue.
It wasn't the issue, though. The command issues probably come from the same mechanical place that lessened his velocity, and Severino will have to quickly find a way to return to his standard (or admit something's wrong).
Yankees star Luis Severino's velocity way down vs Dodgers
The Yankees were willing to trade Jordan Montgomery early, but not Severino, due to the tantalizing nature of his peak form.
Now, with four months remaining on his extension with the Bombers, the team is nearly back to square one, unclear why his stuff didn't survive from Start 2 to Start 3.
The issue of "pitch tipping" came into play after Friday's game, too, seemingly only because it's in vogue at the moment. But, much like when the Blue Jays employed this strategy two weeks ago, it was just a distraction from the issue at hand.
Severino is not Jay Jackson, though. And if he did have a tell on Friday night, it was only the third-biggest issue with his performance. Like we said when Judge's side-eye home run came under fire, you don't need to know what's coming to hit a center-cut pitch with less bite than expected.
Severino could survive, in a theoretical world, at 95-96. But the reason he's brought so much joy in the past -- the very recent past -- is because he has the stuff to paper over his mistakes. Losing that much velocity from start to start indicates something is wrong, no matter what he claimed in a public forum after another worrisome showcase.