NEW YORK -- Three full weeks ago, on the day this year's Subway Series was scheduled to conclude, Aaron Boone fielded a clever question. What were the chances, Boone was asked, he planned to start Jacob deGrom when the Yankees made up their postponed game against the Mets? The non-waiver Trade Deadline just a week away at the time, rumors swirled around idea of the Mets moving deGrom, maybe even to their crosstown rivals.
That hypothetical -- tantalizing as it was at the time -- of course, never became reality. The Mets held on to deGrom on July 31, while the Yankees pivoted to other options, acquiring several other pitchers to pad their rotation from the back end up. By the time the two teams reunited for Monday's makeup tilt -- which the Mets won, 8-5 -- the Yankees' need for that depth had never been greater.
The continued struggles of Luis Severino make that so. On the day they placed Carsten Sabathia on the disabled list, the Yankees also received the shortest effort of the season from Severino, whose second-half struggles continued opposite deGrom and in front of a sellout crowd of 47,233 at Yankee Stadium. Severino was tagged for four runs in four innings, a relative bounty of support compared to what the Mets typically provide their ace, and suffered his fourth loss in five starts. That both Boone and Severino maintained the All-Star righty hander is healthy only make his struggles more vexing.
"We got to help him and get to the bottom of it. Physically, I think he's sound, but we've got to get this righted," Boone said. "And that's on all of us, because he's so important."
Doing so won't involve skipping Severino in the rotation or pushing him back, Boone said. The Yankees already manipulated Severino's workload in recent weeks, lining him up to receive extra rest after the All-Star break. They are in a less of a position to do so now, with Sabathia (right knee) sidelined for at least one start and Sonny Gray already demoted to the bullpen. Though they maintain the second-best record in the Majors, the Yankees' loss pushed them 10 games back of the Red Sox in the American League East.
It also ensured the two New York teams ended up splitting this year's Interleague crop of games, each earning three wins apiece.
"I'm not tired .. it's nothing out of the ordinary," Severino said. "Things aren't going my way right now, but I know that I'll work and try to fix it. I keep making the same mistakes, over and over."
By that, Severino meant he continues to cough up runs early in starts, and via the long ball. Monday marked the fifth time in sixth starts Severino allowed a first-inning tally, this time courtesy of Amed Rosario's leadoff dinger. Severino then departed shortly after Jose Bautista gave the Mets another lead with a two-run shot in the fourth, his exit ending the advertised pitching duel after just four frames. Though the Yankees chipped away in his absence, with a run in the fifth and two more on Miguel Andujar's homer in the eighth, three home runs A.J. Cole allowed in relief of Severino had ballooned the Mets' lead by then.
deGrom, in response, struck out 12 and allowed three runs (two earned) over 6 2/3 innings to earn his seventh win in 24 tries, despite his 1.81 ERA.
Severino's ERA wasn't much higher in late July, when this game was originally set to be played. He and deGrom were both legit Cy Young candidates in their respective leagues by then. But since then, their candidacies have veered in opposite directions. While deGrom appears to be gaining momentum toward the National League version of the award, Severino will now likely need to turnaround his season in a historic way to re-enter the American League running. The Yankees are more concerned with getting him back to just being effective -- their ace has allowed 23 runs over his last 26 innings pitched. Severino now owns a 7.50 ERA with 11 home runs allowed over his last seven starts. He had a 1.98 ERA with just six homers allowed through his first 18 starts of 2018.
"The last couple outings where I feel like I see that sign where he's getting that life back on both his fastball and his slider, I didn't see that life as much today," Boone said.
Few starters in baseball rely more on their fastball than Severino, who routinely flirts with triple digits with his heater. But his signature heat was hit Monday unlike ever before. He allowed Bautista's opposite-field homer on a 99-mph fastball -- the hardest pitch Severino has allowed on a round-tripper over the course of his four-year career.
WHO SAYS YOU CAN'T GO HOME?
Drafted by the Yankees in 2006, right-hander George Kontos made his first appearance back with the club after being re-acquired from the Indians for cash on Aug. 4. Kontos, whose contract was purchased from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to fill Sabathia's spot on the roster, appeared in seven games as a rookie with New York in 2011. Three teams and 342 more appearances connected that stint with Monday, when he entered in place of Cole and logged 1 2/3 scoreless innings.
HE SAID IT
"He's still our guy. He's still the guy we lean to. He's the guy we want out there in big situations. Guys go through this. We've seen it before. If there was a big dip in velocity or stuff like that, I'd be a little worried. … If we can get a little more execution, I think we'll be good." -- Yankees catcher Austin Romine, on Severino
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Boone challenged after Michael Conforto was ruled safe attempting to steal second in the fifth, after Conforto's foot appeared to come off the second base bag as Gleyber Torres applied the tag. So confident with the decision were the Yankees, that a good portion of their team began jogging off the field while umpires reviewed the play. Their presumption proved correct when umpires reversed the call, ruling Conforto out, following a two-minute, 28-second review.
Umpires briefly reviewed another call in the ninth, when Torres' error led to the Mets' final run of the night. Though Torres dropped Didi Gregorius' throw on a potential double play ball, umpires ruled he dropped it on the exchange, making the force at second count despite the clumsiness. A 51-second review confirmed their call on the field.
Part of the Yankees' plan to pad their rotation depth prior to the Deadline, J.A. Happ gets the ball for the third time in pinstripes for Tuesday's series opener against the Rays, which will continue a season-high 11-game homestand. He'll be opposed by right-hander Hunter Wood, one of the Rays' most-used "openers" this season. The Yankees notched a run in two innings off Wood back on July 23, when he began a seven-reliever parade in what ended as a 7-6 New York win. The two teams have split their previous 12 contests this season. First pitch is slated for 7:05 p.m. ET.