NEW YORK — As the New York Yankees try to secure a return to the postseason, Luis Severino looks like the ace they’ve lacked.
Severino pitched eight sparkling innings , Didi Gregorius hit a tiebreaking two-run homer and drove in four runs, and the Yankees routed the reeling Baltimore Orioles 8-2 Friday night for their fifth win in six games.
While manager Joe Girardi isn’t saying, it appears likely Severino would start a wild-card game next month or a Division Series opener if the Yankees overtake Boston to win the AL East.
“That would be an honor for me. I’m ready,” Severino said.
Severino (13-6) allowed three hits while improving to 8-2 with a 2.09 ERA since the All-Star break. A 23-year-old right-hander, Severino was 5-3 with a 2.89 ERA in 11 starts over the final two months in 2015, and then went 0-8 as a starter last year.
“Sevy’s been a different guy, the guy that we thought he could be,” Girardi said. “He has been able to use his fastball in all different quadrants, opposed to last year he pitched up a lot. I think the development of his changeup helped.”
New York, which began the night three games behind AL East-leading Boston, matched its season high of 15 games over .500, set in mid-June. The Yankees (81-66) opened a four-game lead over Minnesota for the top AL wild card and need one victory to ensure their 25th straight winning season, the second-longest streak in big league history behind their 39 in a row from 1926-64.
Severino has moved ahead of Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia in the Yankees rotation, gaining the confidence of his teammates.
“To have somebody that can go out and dominate a game I feel like is extremely important,” Chase Headley said. “He’s got the plus-plus stuff, but he’s not afraid to throw a changeup in a hitter’s count. He’s obviously got a wipeout slider, but he can throw that first strike when he needs to.”
Severino said he arrived at spring training “with another mentality” to “show the Yankees and the fans that I can be a pitcher, a starting pitcher.”
After Welington Castillo’s opposite-field, two-run homer to right on an 0-2 pitch put the Orioles ahead 2-1 in the second, Severino retired 19 of his final 21 batters. David Robertson finished with a hitless ninth.
“It just shows you how hard he went to work in the offseason,” Gregorius said of Severino. “I don’t think a lot of people see that.”
Gregorius hit a sacrifice fly in the first , homered against Miguel Castro for a 4-2 lead in the fifth and added another…