The Yankees have a three-game losing streak and a precarious lead in the AL East.
No problem, according to Luis Severino. He's got their backs Tuesday night in Cleveland.
Severino, standing alone at his cubicle after Sunday's loss to the Blue Jays, seemed unfazed about being cast in the stopper role when he makes his second major-league start.
Asked if he will feel increased pressure to bring the Yankees out of their doldrums, he smiled and said: "Of course not. I feel the same confidence. I know we're going to win and I'm going to work for that."
Coming that close to a Joe Namath guarantee was pretty bold for a 21-year-old, but that's what Severino is all about.
The Yankees, 1 1/2 games ahead of the Blue Jays in the AL East, aren't babying their top pitching prospect. "If there's somebody that can do it, it's him," reliever Dellin Betances said. "He shows a lot of poise, he's confident in his abilities and he has the stuff to go along with it. If you're ready, you're ready. If you have the talent at an early age, why not?"
Nerves do not seem to apply with Severino. "The first time, I was not nervous," he said of his debut Wednesday against the Red Sox, when he allowed two hits -- one a long home run by David Ortiz -- and struck out seven in five innings in a 2-1 loss. "When I got here, everybody was very friendly, they made me feel like I was at home. So no, not nervous."
John Ryan Murphy caught Severino against Boston. "Dang, I was nervous in my first at-bat," he said. "But his makeup speaks for itself. His debut, he was very composed, he looked like he belonged. I think he was just competing like he would be at any other level. He was aggressive, threw a lot of strikes, got some hitters uncomfortable. He's fearless. I guess it's the guy and what he's got inside of him."
If his knee is OK, Brian McCann will be Severino's catcher against the Indians. "I expect him to do the same he did his first start," he said. "Pitch really well, move the ball in and out, change speeds, keep hitters off balance and attack the strike zone.
"I think some people have it and some people don't," McCann said of Severino's composure. "It's not a trait that you can work on. When he walked in the door the other day, you could tell he belongs here. When you expect to be here, you minimize nerves."
Severino said he has studied video of the Indians' hitters. "I watch the lineups and see what are the weaknesses," he said. "It's like learning as you go."
Severino, who is the youngest starting pitcher in the majors, said he didn't focus on when he would be promoted to the big leagues. "I was not thinking about that, I was trying to do my job," he said. "When they knew I was ready, they called me."
In 1964, the Yankees called up 22-year-old Mel Stottlemyre in August. He went 9-3 with a 2.06 ERA to help the Yankees get to the World Series and wound up the losing pitcher in Game 7 against the Cardinals.
Severino was not familiar with Stottlemyre, who was honored with a plaque at the Stadium last month, but admired the accomplishment. "Every pitcher, every player wants to play in the World Series,'' he said. "My dream since I was a kid. I want to be part of that."