NEW YORK -- Slightly over two years ago, Luis Severino made his major league debut for the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium in a game against the Boston Red Sox.
Severino will make another big start against the first-place Red Sox as the Yankees try to inch closer in the American League East race Saturday afternoon.
The hard-throwing right-hander will try to help the Yankees close their deficit to 2 1/2 games following Friday's stirring 5-4 win. New York was six outs away from dropping a season-high 5 1/2 games out but Aaron Hicks sparked a five-run comeback against Addison Reed and Joe Kelly with a two-run homer and saved the game in the ninth by throwing out Eduardo Nunez at third from left field.
"We need to get as many wins as we can against these guys and just show that we're willing to fight back," Hicks said after Todd Frazier delivered the tiebreaking hit off Kelly.
Severino is 1-3 with a 3.45 ERA against the Red Sox in six career games (five starts). His first outing in the rivalry was Aug. 6, 2015, in New York when he allowed two runs (one earned) on two hits and struck out seven during five innings in a 2-1 loss.
Since making his major league debut, Severino dealt with being 0-8 as a starting pitcher last season but has bounced back nicely this season. He is 9-4 with a 2.91 ERA in 22 starts after allowing one run and two hits in 6 2/3 innings during an 8-1 win at Cleveland on Sunday.
"That's as impressive stuff as you're going to see," Indians manager Terry Francona said . "Everyone sees the fastball, but now he's gaining confidence in his off-speed stuff. That's a tough guy to face."
Since June 27, Severino has accumulated 67 strikeouts and the hard-throwing right-hander is 4-0 with an 0.83 ERA in five starts since the All-Star break.
Severino recorded the first five outs via strikeout for the second straight outing and became the only AL pitcher to win four straight starts while allowing one earned run or less each time.
"He's continued to improve all year long," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He's really good, and his stuff doesn't fall off late in the game. It doesn't fall off."
Severino was tough to face in his first two starts against the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
On April 26, he opposed Rick Porcello and allowed three hits in seven scoreless innings during a 3-1 win. On July 15, Severino opposed Chris Sale and allowed one run and four hits in seven innings of New York's 4-1, 16-inning win.
Severino will not be facing Sale or Porcello this time. Drew Pomeranz starts for the Red Sox, who are looking to rebound after seeing their season-high eight-game winning streak stopped Friday.
Pomeranz is on a career-high five-game winning streak after allowing one run and seven hits during last Saturday's 4-1 win over the Chicago White Sox. During his streak, he has a 2.27 ERA in eight starts.
"He's throwing the ball extremely well," Boston manager John Farrell said. "He feels good physically and another quality start on his part."
The Red Sox are 10-4 in Pomeranz's last 14 starts and his 2.71 ERA since June 1 is the third lowest in the AL behind Sale and Corey Kluber.
The left-hander is 1-0 with a 4.09 ERA in two starts against the Yankees this season. He threw 123 pitches in five innings during a 5-4 win at New York on June 6 and took a no-decision July 14 in a 5-4 win when he allowed four runs and six hits in six innings.
In seven career appearances (six starts), Pomeranz is 2-1 with a 3.00 against the Yankees.
Boston will play Saturday without second baseman Dustin Pedroia. He returned to the 10-day disabled list for the third time this season with left knee inflammation.
Regardless of who is in the lineup, the Red Sox will hope for better production in clutch spots. They were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position Friday, are 5-for-48 in their last five games and 3-for-64 in 10 games against the Yankees.
"They put together a big inning," Farrell said. "The way we bounced back, the way we've come through some challenges as a group, we have responded well to them. We've had our difficulties against New York this year, we recognize that. But we're looking forward to Drew Pomeranz setting the tone tomorrow at the beginning."