NEW YORK -- Luis Severino got Albert Pujols to reach for a slider with runners at the corners and ground into a double play that ended the first inning of his season debut, then punched the pocket of his glove to celebrate.
New York's ace was back on the mound, in time to make an impact in the postseason.
Severino pitched four dominant innings and reached 98.8 mph in an 8-0 win over the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday night that moved New York to the brink of clinching its 21st postseason appearance in 25 years.
"It was exciting. It was fun going out there and hearing the fans," Severino said.
But another bizarre injury struck the Yankees. After the game New York announced reliever Dellin Betances partially tore the Achilles tendon in his left foot when he hopped on the mound after striking out Brandon Drury, the second and final batter he faced in his season debut Sunday at Toronto.
"It's about as freak as it can be," manager Aaron Boone said.
Betances' season appears over after eight pitches. He and Severino spent much of the summer rehabbing together. A two-time All-Star, Severino got hurt while warming up before his first scheduled spring training appearance on March 5.
He began tentatively in game 152, opening with a 12-pitch walk to Brian Goodwin, but got sharper and allowed just a pair of singles.
"All his pitches were nice and crisp," the Angels' Luis Rengifo said.
Severino walked two and struck out four, throwing 47 of 67 pitches for strikes and leaving to an ovation from fans tracking his pitch count.
"Looked pretty good out there, pretty sharp," catcher Austin Romine said. "We need Sevy where we're going. He's pitched some big games for us, and we look forward to him pitching some more big games for us."
Severino had seven swings and misses on fastballs and two on sliders.
"My fastball command I think was great. I still need to work a little bit more in sliders to left-handers," he said.
Severino's return gives the Yankees a plethora of postseason rotation choices from a group that includes James Paxton (14-6), Masahiro Tanaka (10-8), Domingo German (18-4), CC Sabathia (5-8) and J.A. Happ (12-8).
Severino was 19-8 with a 3.39 ERA in 32 starts last year but struggled late in the season. The Yankees at first diagnosed Severino with shoulder inflammation, but when the 25-year-old right-hander failed to improve he was sent for an MRI on April 9 that revealed a strained latissimus dorsi muscle. He didn't throw off a mound again until a bullpen session on Aug. 9 and made three minor league injury rehabilitation appearances from Sept. 1-11.
He started in a groove.
"Another huge step back for him," Boone said.
New York lowered its magic number to one over Cleveland to clinch the Yankees' 55th postseason appearance -- 22 more than any other team. New York's magic number dropped to one over Tampa Bay to wrap up the Yankees' 19th AL East title, their first since 2012. And at 99-53, the Yankees are on the verge of their 21st 100-win season, their first in back-to-back years since 2002-04.
Jonathan Loiasiga (2-1) followed Severino with two hitless innings as part of a six-hitter against the Angels, already assured of a losing record at 68-83.
Angels: Rengifo left in the seventh after hurting his left hand on a swing and miss against Stephen Tarpley. X-rays were negative and he will have more tests Wednesday. "As soon as I started to swing, kind of felt like a pop," Rengifo said. ... INF Tommy La Stella, who hasn't played since fracturing his right tibia with a foul ball on July 2, made the trip. La Stella, who is from Westwood, New Jersey, still is feeling discomfort.
Yankees: OF Giancarlo Stanton, limited to nine games this season, is due back Wednesday or Thursday after recovering from a knee injury. Stanton has been sidelined since straining the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on June 25. ... Maybin was shaking his left wrist in the late innings; the wrist has bothered him since August. "It crops up on him in certain games," Boone said. "Probably won't start him tomorrow." ... DH-1B Edwin Encarnacion (strained left oblique) will not swing a bat this week. ... C Gary Sanchez (strained left groin) remains in the treatment phase of his recovery. ... Happ had a cortisone shot Friday to treat biceps tendinitis in his pitching arm and anticipates making his scheduled start Thursday.
Sabathia makes his final regular-season start at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, and German could follow in his second straight relief appearance as New York limits his innings. Left-hander Dillon Peters (3-3) starts for the Angels.
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports
Red Sox place Andrew Benintendi on IL due to strained rib cage
Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi, who is hitting just .103 in 52 plate appearances this season, was placed on the 10-day IL on Wednesday after suffering a strained right rib cage on Tuesday.
Closer Keone Kela to return to injury-ravaged Pirates on Thursday
Closer Keone Kela, who surprisingly tested positive for COVID-19 when he arrived at summer camp, will join the injury-ravaged, last-place Pirates on Thursday for a four-game series in Cincinnati.
Baseball Hall of Fame opens 2020 Inductees Exhibit featuring Derek Jeter, Ted Simmons, Larry Walker, and Marvin Miller
The Baseball Hall of Fame's class of 2020 has to wait a year to get inducted because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the careers of Derek Jeter, Ted Simmons, Larry Walker and Marvin Miller are already being celebrated at the shrine.
Anderson, Robert lead White Sox past Tigers 7-5
Tim Anderson had four hits and finished a double shy of the cycle, and Luis Robert hit a bases-clearing double to lift the Chicago White Sox to a 7-5 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday.
Rays' Andrew Kittredge on 45-day IL with elbow issue
The Tampa Bay Rays placed Andrew Kittredge on the 45-day injured list Wednesday after he was diagnosed with a sprain of his right ulnar collateral ligament.
Machado's grand slam sends Padres over Dodgers, 6-2
Manny Machado slugged a grand slam after two consecutive errors by the Dodgers in the third inning, Garrett Richards won for the first time in two years, and the San Diego Padres defeated Los Angeles 6-2 on Tuesday night.