21 the card game

Could 21-year-old Luis Severino start the Yankees' wild-card game

NEW YORK - Even though he hasn't pitched in nine days and might not start again between now and the end of the regular season on Oct. 4, New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi maintains that his ace, Masahiro Tanaka, will be ready to go in the likely event his club has to play a one-game wild-card playoff on Oct. 6 to join the postseason fun.

But the same man also reminds us, on a daily basis, "a lot of strange things happen in this game, " a mantra he repeated before Sunday's 6-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox at Yankee Stadium.

And certainly, a lot stranger things than a pitcher with a strained hamstring being unable to pitch happen all the time. In that case, who would the Yankees go to for the one-and-done game?

Luis Severino was impressive Sunday in his 10th big-league start. Mike Stobe/Getty Images North America

It seems as if they could do worse than Luis Severino, who seven months ago couldn't legally buy alcohol in New York, but after just 10 big league starts, might never have to buy a drink again in this town. Severino got the win on Sunday, throwing six innings of scoreless, five-hit ball, and even if it wasn't quite his best performance of the season - that came on Sept. 4 against the Tampa Bay Rays - it was yet another outing that had his manager and teammates raving about Severino's poise and worldliness beyond his 21 years.

Asked if he sometimes forgets how young Severino is, Girardi said, "Yeah, you really do. Just because of how calm he is and how prepared he is and has an idea of exactly what he wants to do. There aren’t a lot of 21-year-old kids who can do that."

Admittedly, Severino wasn't facing the most fearsome lineup in baseball - the White Sox have scored an AL-worst 605 runs and their 135 home runs is just two more than the AL-worst Kansas City Royals - but still, he held them to just one single through 3T innings, induced four double plays and made three good fielding plays on balls hit fairly hard up the middle. He often hit 99 mph on the radar gun but struck out only two batters on a day in which his location might not have been pinpoint. Still, it was a pretty effortless performance that raised his record since joining the Yankees on July 31 to 5-3 and lowered his ERA to 2.77.

Ever since being shelled by the Toronto Blue Jays, who scored six times on him in 2S innings on Sept. 11, Severino has started three times, won twice (the other was a no-decision) and allowed just three earned runs in 17T innings (1.53 ERA). The additions of Severino and Greg Bird (10 home runs and 29 RBIs in 39 games in place of the injured Mark Teixeira) have had a decided impact on this club, one that Girardi compared to another famed Yankees rookie duo of the past.

"You can look at what Jeet did and what Mo did in '96, " Girardi said, invoking the nicknames of recent Yankees deities Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, both of whom contributed mightily as rookies to the 1996 championship team. "They've had about as big an impact."

And the biggest impact might still be to come, at least for Severino. Tanaka might take fielding practice before Monday's game against the Boston Red Sox, one of the last hurdles he must clear before returning to the mound. If all goes well, the Yankees will line him up to pitch that all-important wild-card game. But if not?

"That's a hypothetical, " said the hypothetical-hating Girardi, when asked if Severino could be an option for that game. "I think Tanaka is going to be fine, so that is not too much of a concern of mine. But [Severino] has pitched extremely well and we have a ton of confidence in him."

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The objective of the game is to score 21 points while the ace is 1 or 11 points and the Jack, queen and king count as 10 . If you reach a number of 5 cards before you hit 21 points you can also win that way

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