NEW YORK (AP) — Luis Severino cruised through his final postseason tuneup and Starlin Castro, Greg Bird and Aaron Hicks all homered during a four-run sixth inning, lifting the New York Yankees over the Tampa Bay Rays 6-1 on Wednesday night.
New York (89-69) improved to a season-high 20 games over .500 and remained three behind division-leading Boston with four to play. The Red Sox beat Toronto 10-7 on Wednesday.
Severino (14-6) struck out nine and allowed a run in six innings. He is lined up to start New York’s playoff opener. The Yankees would host the AL wild-card game Tuesday if they don’t win the division.
New York has won 11 of 12 at home and 18 games overall this month, its best September since winning 19 in 2009.
Tampa Bay (76-82) was ensured its fourth straight losing season.
Castro crushed a solo shot off the back wall in the Rays’ bullpen to lead off the sixth, chasing starter Matt Andriese (5-5) and giving the Yankees a 3-1 lead with his 16th homer and second in two games.
Bird then homered off reliever Xavier Cedeno, giving New York its tenth set of back-to-back homers this season. Bird has eight homers this season, including five in his past 10 games.
Three batters later, Hicks delivered a two-run drive to left-center, making it 6-1.
The Yankees have hit 27 home runs in their last 13 games and a major league-leading 235 overall.
Severino punched out Logan Morrison for his 230th strikeout this season, tying CC Sabathia (2011) for third on the franchise season list. Severino leads the majors with sixteen starts in which he has not allowed more than a run. He’ll finish the season with a 2.98 ERA.
Aaron Judge lined a hard double to left in the fifth, scoring Jacoby Ellsbury and Hicks to put New York ahead 2-1.
A Rookie of the Year favorite and MVP candidate, Judge has at least one extra-base hit in seven straight games and has driven in 111 runs.
Adeiny Hechavarria broke a scoreless tie leading off the top of the inning, hitting a hanging slider into the left-field stands for his eighth home run.
Andriese allowed three runs, five hits and two walks over five-plus innings, striking out three. The right-hander is 0-4 with a 7.77 ERA in five starts this month.
Four Yankees relievers combined on three scoreless innings, with Aroldis Chapman striking out one in a perfect ninth.
Rays outfielder Corey Dickerson swung through a 1-1 fastball in the second inning, losing his lumber in the process. Dickerson’s bat flew into the stands along the first-base line just past the Yankees dugout, bouncing off a railing and landing about eight rows back from the field. No one appeared hurt, and stadium staff gave a quick thumbs-up.
A young girl was seriously injured by a foul ball a week ago at Yankee Stadium on Todd Frazier’s 105 mph drive into the lower deck behind third base. The injury prompted calls to extend the netting that currently protects fans sitting between the two dugouts.
Yankees: Judge made his ninth start at DH. Manager Joe Girardi said that he will probably give the rookie slugger a full day off between now and Sunday.
Rays: Rookie RHP Jake Faria (5-4, 3.33 ERA) starts on Thursday in place of Alex Cobb, who was shut down because of workload.
Yankees: RHP Sonny Gray (10-11, 3.31 ERA) will make his final regular-season start in the series finale. He is 4-6 with a 3.12 ERA in 10 outings since being acquired from Oakland on July 31.
(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)