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Yankees turn to Severino to sweep Twins

NEW YORK -- Thanks to a late change in pitching plans, Yankees right-hander Luis Severino will start Wednesday afternoon against the Minnesota Twins.

The move also lines him up to start New York's regular-season finale.

Severino was originally slated to get only two starts the rest of the regular season, but the change will get him a third start.

The first of the three will come in the Yankees' attempt to complete a sweep of the Twins.

The right-hander found out Monday and the Yankees announced their change of plans Tuesday before getting a 5-2 victory and moving six games ahead of the Twins in the race for the first American League wild card.

"We discussed it, we had been preparing him for it," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Tuesday afternoon. "It allows him to start three more times if needed."

Severino (13-6, 2.93 ERA) is set to face an opponent who has only seen him on video and in advanced scouting reports. None of Minnesota's hitters have faced him in the major leagues, and only Jorge Polanco (1-for-6 with Triple-A Rochester 2016, 0-for-3 with Double-A New Britain 2014) has ever faced him at the minor league level.

By pushing up Severino from his previously scheduled Friday turn, the Yankees showed that they still hold aspirations of winning the AL East. With 11 games remaining, they are three games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox.

"Our goal is still to win the division," Girardi said. "We have clinched nothing at this point. We still have a lot to work to do in front of us."

"We've been playing really good baseball, and we just need to continue to do that and keep the pressure on them, make them keep winning," Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner said after the team won for the 14th time in 19 games.

Severino has been a key reason why the Yankees seem likely to at least host the AL wild-card game Oct. 3.

Since the All-Star break, he is 8-2 with a 2.09 ERA in 12 starts. During those outings, Severino allowed one earned run or fewer nine times, and he has turned it on even more this month.

In three starts this month, he is 2-0 with an 0.86 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 21 innings. During those starts, opponents are 6-for-72 (.083).

On Friday, he tied a career high by pitching eight innings when he allowed two earned runs on three hits in an 8-2 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.

"I think whether it's a guy that you've seen do this before it or not, it's just been impressive what he's done, the way he's pitched all year long for us," Girardi said after Severino dominated the Orioles. "We really believed that he was always a starter."

Severino will be starting Wednesday on the regular four days' rest, which is his preference.

"If I had to choose, I'd choose tomorrow," Severino said Tuesday. "I like to pitch on five days. When I rest a lot, my arm feels very good and I can't control my fastball, I overthrow."

His opponent will be veteran Bartolo Colon, who is making his 13th start for the Twins. They are 1 1/2 games ahead of the Los Angeles Angels for the second wild-card spot and have lost the first two games in the Bronx despite holding the Yankees to three hits in 28 at-bats with runners in scoring position.

"To score three runs the first couple of games, usually it's not going to be enough against this team," Molitor said. "To drop a couple of games here and have to come back to face a guy like Severino, it's going to be a tall order, and we'll make a quick turnaround."

Colon is 4-5 with a 4.80 ERA for Minnesota after going 2-8 with an 8.14 ERA for the Atlanta Braves.

Colon last pitched Friday during a 4-3 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays. He allowed four runs and five hits in six innings. In his past three starts -- all defeats -- Colon owns a 7.53 ERA after going 4-1 with a 3.40 ERA in six August starts.

The 44-year-old is 6-8 with a 5.81 ERA in 20 games (19 starts) against the Yankees, whom he pitched for in 2011. He made his debut for the Twins in a 6-4 loss to New York on July 18, when he allowed four runs and eight hits in four innings.

New York's current roster holds a combined .324 average off him. Matt Holliday, who did not start the last two games, is 7-for-21 off Colon, while Jacoby Ellsbury is 6-for-18.

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