NEW YORK -- The hours of conversation and planning that the Yankees poured into ensuring they remained alive past the third day of October boiled down to the same blueprint they brought into the year. Allow Luis Severino to showcase his high-octane arsenal, hand the game off to the vaunted bullpen and wait for Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton to crush a ball out of sight.
It came together mostly as envisioned on Wednesday evening, helping the Yankees post a 7-2 victory over the Athletics in the American League Wild Card Game at Yankee Stadium. After the requisite pouring of bubbly and beer, the Bombers will ride the rails to meet the Red Sox for an AL Division Series that opens on Friday night at Fenway Park.
• ALDS presented by T-Mobile, Game 1: Fri., 7:32 p.m. ET on TBS
"That Wild Card Game is no joke. It takes years off of you," Judge said. "We were prepared, just like Oakland. It was a tough game, a fun game; you live for those moments. Any big moment like that, you enjoy those situations. You enjoy the pressure. Your back's against the wall; that's what this team is all about."
:: AL Wild Card Game schedule and results ::
A year after recording just one out in his postseason debut, Severino rose to the challenge and rewarded manager Aaron Boone's belief that the right-hander's tantalizing ceiling made him the correct choice to start the winner-take-all contest, holding the A's hitless into the fifth inning while striking out five of the first seven men he faced.
"I think last year, my first time in a playoff game, I was too excited," Severino said. "I was going to go to the mound and treat it like a regular game, hitting my spots and trying to get batters out."
Showcasing crackling velocity and sharp bite on his slider, Severino fanned seven in all, though the All-Star's pitch count escalated quickly due to deep counts and four walks. He found an extra gear when he needed one, firing a 99.6-mph fastball past Marcus Semien with the bases loaded for the final out of the fourth inning. Severino's eyes tilted skyward and he unleashed a primal roar.
"Sevy set the tone and came out on a mission," Boone said. "I thought he threw the ball so well. Credit to the A's, though, they made it tough on him. They battled him and he was able to make some big pitches when he really needed to, but they kind of really made him work hard to that point."
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Boone permitted Severino to return for the fifth inning, but the rookie skipper walked to the mound tapping his right arm after Jonathan Lucroy and Nick Martini opened that frame with singles. Earning his own measure of redemption after control issues left the Yankees unable to trust him last postseason, Dellin Betances retired all six men he faced, striking out three.
"I've been waiting on this moment for a long time," Betances said. "Last year, I was a cheerleader. I cheerleaded my guys on. Thank God this year I was able to be a part of something special."
Judge put the Yankees on the board almost immediately, following an Andrew McCutchen leadoff walk with a two-run homer off "opener" Liam Hendriks. Judge's projected 427-foot blast, per Statcast™, was his fifth career playoff home run, and Judge joined Reggie Jackson as the only Yankees to hit four homers in their first seven postseason home games.
• Yankee Stadium goes nuts after Judge's home run
"Judge, that's one of the hardest balls I think he's hit since he came back," Luke Voit said. "That's such a good confidence booster for him, because I know he wants to get that big hit. To start us off with that is unbelievable. He's our leader, he's our captain. We rely on him, and he came up big for us."
The A's bullpen calmed matters after Judge's homer. Lou Trivino held New York to an infield single and a walk over three scoreless innings, and Shawn Kelley worked a scoreless frame. But the Yanks got to Fernando Rodney and Blake Treinen in the sixth as some in the sellout crowd began to chant, "We want Boston!" Judge connected on an excuse-me double that kicked past first baseman Matt Olson down the right-field line, then scored on Aaron Hicks' double to right-center.
"This is a tough ballpark to play in," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "You know it's going to be loud … it's Yankee Stadium. And sometimes it's difficult to overcome that."
With Melvin intending to stanch the bleeding at three runs, Rodney was removed in favor of Treinen, but the Yanks continued their attack against the well-regarded Oakland closer. Stanton walked and stole second base before Voit narrowly missed a homer with a shot off the right-field wall, chugging into third base with a two-run triple, the first of his career.
Didi Gregorius lifted a sac fly and Voit tumbled into home plate on an awkward slide that had the Yanks' bench laughing, swelling the lead to six runs while putting the champagne and beer on ice in the home clubhouse.
"You always dream big. I thought I got it," Voit said. "Hey, luckily it worked out for me. I got my first triple. I don't know how, but man, this game is fun. I'm having the time of my life."
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Khris Davis broke up the shutout with a two-run homer off Zach Britton in the eighth, but Stanton answered with a 443-foot moonshot in the bottom half of the inning off Treinen for his first postseason homer.
The Yankees held on to win their seventh consecutive home postseason game, having gone 6-0 in the Bronx during a 2017 run that fell one victory shy of the World Series. It's a run they'll now put to the test against Boston.
"We're excited," Judge said. "It's going to be a fun series. This place is going to be rocking, Fenway is going to be rocking. Everyone is excited for it."
The Yankees have improved to 2-1 in Wild Card Games, joining the Giants (2-0 in 2014 and '16) as the only clubs to win multiple Wild Card Games. The Yankees are 15-13 in winner-take-all postseason games, including 4-2 since '12, and they are 19-9 in 28 postseason games at the current Yankee Stadium.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Judge's first-inning homer had an exit velocity of 116.1 mph, making it the hardest-hit postseason homer tracked by Statcast™, but only for a brief time. Stanton shattered that record in the eighth inning, mashing a 117.4-mph blast into the second deck of the left-field seating area.
"That was awesome," Stanton said. "I didn't start us off like Judgy did, but it was still great."
HE SAID IT
"It's the best feeling in the world. There's nothing better than this stinging feeling. Hopefully we can do it again." -- Voit, on the Yankees' celebration
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The A's challenged the sixth-inning play at home plate that resulted in New York's sixth run when Voit tagged up on Gregorius' sacrifice fly. The call on the field was ruled to stand, with the replay appearing to show that Voit was able to get his right hand on home plate ahead of the tag from Lucroy.
"I'm fast, right? No," Voit said. "Hey, you know what? Single, walk, hit-by-pitch, homer, whatever -- as long as I'm helping this team win, that's all that I care about."