OAKLAND -- One of Aaron Boone's first and easiest calls in his new position was to have Luis Severino and Gary Sanchez on the field for the season opener. In the event of a Wild Card playoff game, that remains the likeliest scenario, though the Yankees manager stopped short of calling it a lock on an evening when that battery did not appear ready for prime time.
In the latest installment of Severino's slide from Cy Young contender to rotation quandary, the right-hander stomped around the mound repeatedly, fuming over cross-ups that led to two wild pitches, two passed balls and four early runs in the Yankees' ugly 8-2 loss to the Athletics on Wednesday at the Oakland Coliseum.
"It was a mess," Severino said. "I think I need to do a better job and communicate more with Gary, and try to get better."
The Yankees' Wild Card lead over the A's dipped to 3 1/2 games, and they have good reason to hope that this marked their final trip of the year to the Bay Area: New York has lost 18 of its last 25 games in Oakland, and six of the last seven.
"I want to get rolling, no question about it," Boone said. "I think we're doing some things well, but we're not certainly rolling like we're capable of. We're starting to get some guys back, which is really important, but we've got to play better if we want to get to where we want to go."
Severino permitted plenty of loud contact in his shortest start of the season, knocked for six runs (five earned) and six hits over 2 2/3 innings. He insisted that his body feels as good as it did earlier in the year, when Severino was 13-2 with a 1.98 ERA through 18 starts.
The All-Star has faded since then. Including Wednesday's loss, Severino is 4-5 with a 6.83 ERA in 11 starts since July 7.
"I just need to do a better job. I know right now I'm not at my best," Severino said. "I need to perform like I was in the first half. I try my best and try to look at what's going on wrong. I think a couple of good outings I had there in the past I was getting better. I just need to bounce back and get like I was in the first half."
Oakland took a quick lead as Ramon Laureano doubled, advanced when Sanchez stabbed at an inside pitch for a passed ball and scored on Jed Lowrie's line-drive single. Khris Davis lifted a fly to deep right that Andrew McCutchen seemed unable to find, the ball bouncing on the warning track for a double.
Severino fired a wild pitch through Sanchez's legs that allowed Lowrie to score, and Matt Olson doubled home Davis. Another passed ball followed as Sanchez couldn't corral a swinging strike to Stephen Piscotty. Olson scored on yet another wild pitch in the nightmarish 28-pitch first inning, and Piscotty knocked out Severino two frames later with a two-run single.
"I think we're concerned, but I also think we've seen enough signs that we feel like he's starting to climb out of it a little bit," Boone said. "This was a little bit of a bump in the road and a setback for him that we've got to dive into and get on top of that first-inning stuff where I don't think he's quite as sharp. We've got to all come together and fix it because he's so important for us."
Jonathan Holder and Luis Cessa each permitted a run in relief, while A's starter Mike Fiers held the Yanks silent until Sanchez's two-run homer in the seventh inning, his 15th. Fiers scattered three hits over six-plus innings, walking three and striking out five.
"Gary hit the big home run off Fiers, but for the most part he really did a good job of limiting the damage, limiting baserunners," Brett Gardner said. "He pitched a good game."
Severino's first-inning strikeout of Piscotty was his 200th of the season. Severino became the third Yankees pitcher to record multiple seasons of 200 or more strikeouts, joining Ron Guidry (1978-79) and David Cone (1997-98).
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Adeiny Hechavarria turned in a defensive highlight in the fifth inning, charging toward a slow roller on the right side of the infield and using his glove to flip the ball to Luke Voit at first base, taking a hit away from Olson.
HE SAID IT
"He was a little off tonight. Like any ballplayer on any given day, you're going to have an off night. He also executed some good pitches. Unfortunately, the other team was able to hit those pitches very well. Now we've got to look forward and go try to bounce back." -- Sanchez, on Severino
Following an off-day Thursday, the Yankees will open a three-game weekend series against the Mariners on Friday in Seattle at 10:05 p.m. ET. Shortstop Didi Gregorius is expected to return to the Yankees' lineup after missing 2 1/2 weeks with a left heel contusion. Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (10-5, 3.83 ERA) will take the hill, having allowed two earned runs or fewer in seven of his last nine starts, posting a 2.68 ERA over that span. Left-hander James Paxton (11-5, 3.74) draws the start for the Mariners.