With his first pitch Wednesday night in the Bronx, a 96-mph fastball right down Broadway, Luis Severino reaffirmed why Aaron Boone didn’t need to ruminate long over who to start in the American League wild-card game.

Strike one.

Severino’s next pitch to Nick Martini came in even hotter, clocking in at 97, and the Oakland Athletics’ leadoff man could do nothing other than spray it foul down the first-base line.

Strike two.

Luxuriating, now, with the count in his favor, Severino reached back for even more queso, and sizzled a third straight heater – this one at 99 – over the outer third of the plate. Martini stared at it, helpless.

Strike three.

Uno, dos, adios.

You don’t need to use an opener when you have Luis Severino. You use an opener because you don’t have Luis Severino. The strategy, first put into practice by the Tampa Bay Rays, was borne of deficiency. And these New York Yankees aren’t deficient. Quite the opposite, in fact. They excel at everything. Starting pitching. Relief pitching. Socking dingers. Everything.

If that truth was obscured at all this season by the Boston Red Sox – who denied the Yankees a division title and consigned them, for a second straight year, to a do-or-die play-in game – New York made it abundantly clear Wednesday with a 7-2 victory over Oakland that felt much more lopsided than the final score suggested.

Every cog in the Yankees’ machine was churning, and when that happens, they look pretty darn invincible. (Not surprisingly, the Red Sox – who are now preparing to host the Yankees in Game 1 of the ALDS on Friday – don’t share that perspective, tweeting out “We want New York” immediately after Wednesday’s final out.)

Al Bello / Getty Images Sport / Getty

And it all started with Severino, the 24-year-old right-hander whom Boone was “really excited” to hand the ball to with his team’s season on the line. The Yankees, who received more wins above replacement from their starters this season than all but four teams, had other viable options – namely Masahiro Tanaka and J.A. Happ – but Boone decided, rightly, to go with his ace. And a year after getting lit up by the Minnesota Twins in the AL wild-card game, Severino redeemed himself, albeit in an abbreviated outing, feeding Oakland a heavy diet of heaters and sliders and ultimately quieting a lineup that finished fifth in the majors in OPS this year. He didn’t allow a hit, let alone a run, through the first four innings, striking out seven. That Severino didn’t get out of the fifth inning – he was lifted with runners on first and second and nobody out – is more a testament to the strength of the Yankees’ bullpen than anything else.

“Sevy set the tone and really came out on a mission,” Boone said afterward, per ASAP Sports.

Of course, it’s easier to get into a groove when you’re working with a lead, and the Yankees’ ridiculously stacked lineup wasted no time providing its starter with one. By the time he came out for the second inning, Severino was already reveling in a two-run advantage thanks to Aaron Judge, who deposited an inside heater from Liam Hendriks – the Athletics’ remarkably reliable opener down the stretch – into the left-field seats after Andrew McCutchen led off the bottom of the first with a walk.

This is the Yankees, though, and they just shattered the single-season record for homers, so, naturally, Judge’s blast wouldn’t stand as the lone long ball. Giancarlo Stanton – one of the few players who could author a 38-homer campaign that somehow felt underwhelming – got in on the action with a solo moonshot off Blake Treinen, increasing a 6-2 Yankees lead that already felt insurmountable. The outsized home run was a fitting way to cap Stanton’s postseason debut.

And during that brief moment in the fifth inning when it looked as though New York’s lead – 2-0 at the time – might possibly, potentially, maybe have a chance to slip away, Dellin Betances was there to squash any notion of an Athletics comeback. Having inherited Severino’s two-on, none-out situation, Betances induced a line out from Matt Chapman and a fly out from Jed Lowrie before fanning Khris Davis – MLB’s home-run leader – to end the threat. By the end of the night, the Yankees’ bullpen, a high-velocity, bat-missing embarrassment of riches, had allowed two runs over five innings of work, the lone blemish being a two-run homer allowed by Zach Britton. (At least he finally got into a wild-card game!)

The combination of Severino’s nasty stuff, a couple of homers (and a smattering of other timely hits), and some fine relief work exposed the A’s for what they really are: a team that deserves tons of credit for its terrific regular season, but one that really had no business fraternizing with the rest of the American League juggernauts. And though the Red Sox aren’t the A’s, the ease with which the Yankees – who just muscled their way to their best record (100-62) since their 2009 championship season – discredited Oakland has to be at least a bit concerning for Boston, its Twitter hubris notwithstanding.

And the Yankees know it, too.

“I think they can’t wait (to face the Red Sox),” Boone said of his players. “I think they’re ready and relish the opportunity to go up against the game’s best this year.”

Jonah Birenbaum is theScore’s senior MLB writer. He steams a good ham. You can find him on Twitter @birenball.

Menu