BALTIMORE -- If the Yankees are to continue their playoff push through September, they will need to squeeze unexpected contributions from every corner of their clubhouse. Luis Severino answered that call on Sunday, helping to keep their dream alive in the face of long odds.
Severino earned the win with two hitless, scoreless innings of relief in the Yankees' 5-2 victory over the Orioles at Camden Yards, pitching out of a crucial fifth-inning jam in what manager Joe Girardi had openly referred to as his team's most important contest of the season.
"I like being a starter, but if I have to throw in the bullpen, and that is my role, I'm going to do my best," Severino said.
A loss would have dropped New York 5 1/2 games behind Baltimore in the American League Wild Card chase, and given the afternoon's critical nature, starter Michael Pineda was offered little rope. Pineda exited after Pedro Álvarez's fifth-inning RBI double, halving New York's lead to two runs at the time.
A Severino wild pitch and back-to-back walks loaded the bases with one out, but the 22-year-old right-hander rebounded to strike out Steve Pearce swinging and got Matt Wieters to ground out softly to second baseman Starlin Castro, squelching the threat.
"We believe in Severino," Pineda said. "He's great. He did a great job today, and we're winning the game. This is the bigger thing."
For Severino, days like this have been in short supply of late; he is 0-8 with an 8.58 ERA in nine big league starts but has excelled out of the bullpen. Severino improved to 2-0 with no earned runs allowed over five relief appearances, striking out 13 in 11 1/3 innings.
"I feel like all my pitches are working; the fastball is good, and slider, too," Severino said. "My changeup is better. I'm not throwing it a lot, but … if I need to throw my changeup, I can."
Third baseman Chase Headley, who was 2-for-3 with a walk, run scored and two RBIs in the victory, said that the Yankees love having Severino as a weapon.
"He obviously has tremendous stuff, and he got huge outs for us today," Headley said. "Sevvy came in and got a couple really, really big outs in that fifth inning and then came back out in the sixth. Great outing for him. We're glad that he's here, and whatever way they decide to use him, he's got extremely dangerous stuff."
The 38-pitch appearance likely rules Severino out to start on Wednesday against the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium in place of injured rookie Chad Green. Right-hander Bryan Mitchell remains an option, but Girardi suggested that it could wind up being a "bullpen game," where multiple relievers would soak the first few innings.
"I think if we wouldn't have used [Severino], we probably would have started him on Wednesday," Girardi said.
But these Yankees no longer have the luxury of looking that far ahead. As long as they remain alive in the postseason chase, their most important game of the season will be a fire alarm perpetually no more than 24 hours away. Girardi said that he thinks his players are prepared to respond.
"I think they've been handling it for the last three or four weeks anyway, so I think they can," Girardi said. "I think they're having fun."