Luis Severino is quickly finding out what it's like to pitch in a pennant race. After falling flat against David Price and AL East-leading Toronto, the New York Yankees' rookie draws another all-star pitcher in his next turn.
Severino will try to rebound from his first poor performance and help the wild card-leading Yankees win a road series Wednesday night against Chris Archer and the Tampa Bay Rays.
A win to close a four-game series against the Blue Jays and another to open this set versus the Rays helped momentarily soften the blow of five straight losses for the Yankees (79-65). Tampa Bay (70-74), though, scored four unanswered runs Tuesday in a 6-3 victory, keeping New York three games behind Toronto, which fell 3-2 at Atlanta.
Severino (3-3, 3.35 ERA) is coming off by far the worst of his seven major league starts, allowing six runs, six hits - including a pair of first-inning homers - and three walks over 2 1-3 innings of an 11-5 loss to Toronto on Friday. The right-hander had surrendered two runs in his previous three starts spanning 18 1-3 innings.
The 21-year-old insists his confidence isn't wavering.
"Of course not," he told MLB's official website. "I'm going to have more tough outings like that. I have to keep going. Keep working."
Severino hopes to revert to his previous outing when he logged his fifth straight quality start during a 5-2 win over Tampa Bay on Sept. 4. He gave up one run over a season-best 6 1-3 innings.
Good news for Severino is what Alex Rodriguez did Tuesday hours after the Yankees learned he is playing through a bruised left knee. Rodriguez - thought to have suffered the injury while sliding on Sunday - hit his 32nd home run in his first at-bat, his 3,061st hit to move past Craig Biggio into 21st place on the all-time list.
Rodriguez has eight home runs against Tampa Bay this season, his most against any opponent. He and Brian McCann hit back-to-back homers against Archer during a 6-4 win in the Bronx on Sept. 6. Archer (12-11, 2.95) was in prime position to beat the Yankees with a 3-0 lead entering the sixth inning, but the consecutive two-out homers gave New York a 4-3 advantage. Archer exited after recording one out in the seventh and was charged with five runs - four earned.
The right-hander entered the season as a near lock to beat the Yankees, winning five of six starts against them with a 1.93 ERA. He's 0-1 with a 2.70 ERA in three meetings this year.
Archer had eight strikeouts in an 8-4 win over Boston Friday, moving his total to 236, three shy of Scott Kazmir's 2007 team record. At one point, Archer tied a club record with seven straight strikeouts against the Red Sox.
"I obviously would prefer to not throw so many pitches in such a short amount of time," Archer told MLB's official website. "But whatever it takes to get them out."
Jacoby Ellsbury is mired in an 0-for-25 slump, but he is 14 for 21 with a home run against Archer. That .667 average is the highest of any player against the Tampa Bay pitcher with at least 10 at-bats.
Rays shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera left Tuesday's win early with a left knee strain. He is day to day after X-rays came back negative.