Luis Severino waited nearly two months to make his season debut and the long-awaited moment will occur as Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo are rolling.
Severino will return from a lat strain and hopes to watch Judge and Rizzo produce more big hits when the New York Yankees go for the three-game sweep of the host Cincinnati Reds on Sunday.
Severino, who missed two months with the same injury last season, is pitching for the first time since an ALCS Game 2 loss at the Houston Astros, 3-2 on Oct. 20. His most recent regular-season outing was seven hitless innings at Texas on Oct. 3. That effort capped a season where he returned from Tommy John surgery by going 7-3 with a 3.18 ERA in 19 starts spanning 102 innings.
He made two rehab starts and is returning to a team with 13 wins in its past 18 games following a 3-2 loss to Cleveland on May 1.
Severino is 1-0 with a 4.00 ERA in two career starts against the Reds, whom he faced July 13 and was injured after allowing three straight homers in the second.
"He's a great pitcher and I'm looking forward to him getting into and a part of this rotation," New York manager Aaron Boone said. "I know what kind of impact he can have for us."
Boone also knows what kind of impact Judge and Rizzo are showing of late. Judge went 4-for-4, reached base five times and hit the tiebreaking single in the 10th inning before Rizzo hit a two-run homer in Saturday's 7-4 win.
The Yankees are 9-3 since Judge returned from a brief injured list stint because of a strained right hip. Since returning, he is batting .378 (17-for-45) with seven homers and 18 RBIs.
"I try not to think about being in a hot streak," he said. "It's about going out there and assessing the situation. I look at who is on the mound and what I have to do to help the team."
Rizzo, who has 24 career homers in Cincinnati, has reached base in 17 of his last 18 games. He also is batting .353 (24-for-68) with six homers and 15 RBIs in that span.
"Rizzo has been our rock," Boone said. "He's been rock solid to start the year, that one constant, even when we missed Judge for the 10 or 11 games."
Besides attempting to stop Judge and Rizzo, the Reds are hoping to avoid a fourth straight loss after striking out 25 times in the first two games of the series. One of those strikeouts was by Jonathan India in the ninth after he fouled a ball off his knee, but he vowed to play Sunday.
"He actually looks not too bad," Cincinnati manager David Bell said of his second baseman. "Not too terrible. The good news is it's not broken."
Jake Fraley hit an RBI single and is hitting .355 (22-for-62) with 22 RBIs in his last 21 games.
The Reds hope a solid showing by Hunter Greene (0-3, 4.60 ERA) can help erase the disappointment of the previous two games. Greene allowed three earned runs or fewer in his first eight starts before getting tagged for six runs and nine hits in four innings of a no-decision Monday at Colorado.
Greene allowed two homers and has allowed five in his past three starts after yielding only a homer to Pittsburgh's O'Neil Cruz in the season opener.
Greene has never faced the Yankees and the only New York hitter he ever faced was Harrison Bader.
--Field Level Media