ST. PETERSBURG -- The Yankees maintained their confidence while Gary Sanchez and Luis Severino scuffled through the second half of the season, believing that their track records pointed toward better performances ahead. That faith was rewarded on Tuesday evening, boosting hopes that the pair of "Baby Bombers" could be turning
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Yankees maintained their confidence while Gary Sanchez and Luis Severino scuffled through the second half of the season, believing that their track records pointed toward better performances ahead. That faith was rewarded on Tuesday evening, boosting hopes that the pair of "Baby Bombers" could be turning the corner.
Sanchez enjoyed his first four-RBI game since early April, homering as part of a seven-run third inning, and Severino reclaimed some of his swagger by earning his 19th victory with five effective innings as the Yankees rolled to a 9-2 victory over the Rays at Tropicana Field.
"This definitely won't be a season that is going to be one of my favorites, for sure, but the good thing is that we still have a couple of games coming up," Sanchez said through an interpreter. "The focus is to concentrate on the next game and concentrate to keep performing and help the team."
New York's magic number to secure home-field advantage in the American League Wild Card Game was trimmed to two because it holds the intra-division tiebreaker over the Athletics, who lost to the Mariners late Tuesday in Seattle. New York (97-60) improved to 37 games over .500 for the first time since 2009.
As Severino continues to compete with J.A. Happ and Masahiro Tanaka for the honor of starting the Oct. 3 AL Wild Card Game, the right-hander turned in his third straight encouraging outing, limiting the Rays to two runs and four hits over five innings.
Brandon Lowe's two-run, third-inning double stood as the only damage against Severino, who joined the Rays' Blake Snell (21) and the Indians' Corey Kluber (20) as the only pitchers with 19 or more wins this season.
"I feel good," Severino said. "I'm ready for anything. We have Boston next. We have two more games here. We have to focus on those games and then we focus on the postseason."
Sanchez slugged a three-run homer to cap scoring in the seven-run third, which matched an April 21 frame against the Blue Jays as the Yanks' most lucrative of the year.
Filling in for injured shortstop Didi Gregorius, Adeiny Hechavarria started the big third inning with a homer off Rays starter Jake Faria, who lasted 2 1/3 innings and permitted three runs. After a Brett Gardner triple, a walk and a scorched 109-mph Aaron Judge liner that Faria somehow caught, Luke Voit greeted Andrew Kittredge with a two-run double.
• Sterling references ABBA on Hechavarria HR call
Jalen Beeks issued a bases-loaded walk to Neil Walker and Miguel Andujar lifted a sacrifice fly before Sanchez connected on his 17th homer, a line drive to left. He had been 10-for-66 (.152) since being activated from the disabled list on Sept. 1.
"It's good to help the team, especially when you bring in a couple of runs," Sanchez said. "That's what you want to do. I'm expecting to be more consistent and keep helping the team."
Sanchez helped save a third-inning run by slapping a tag on Ji-Man Choi, who exited the game with an ear laceration and concussion-like symptoms. Sanchez contributed a run-scoring single in the fifth before Andujar padded the Yanks' lead with a solo homer in the ninth, the 26th of his rookie campaign.
"That's why you play the game, to help the team," Sanchez said.
The Yankees have hit 255 home runs this season as they continue to pursue a single-season record held by the 1997 Mariners (264). New York has the fifth-highest total at the moment, also trailing the 2005 Rangers (260), 2010 Blue Jays (257) and 1996 Orioles (257).
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
The 109-mph missile that Faria snared in the third inning was the second-hardest ball put in play by Judge since his activation from the disabled list, behind only a 112.1-mph lineout to right field against Boston's Nathan Eovaldi in his first at-bat on Sept. 18. More >
• Cutch giddy after redeeming himself
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Yankees challenged in the sixth when Judge was called out at first for the third out of the inning. After a review of 52 seconds, the call was overturned, giving Judge an infield single.
The Yankees have not decided on their starter for the AL Wild Card Game, and Tanaka (12-5, 3.67 ERA) will have another chance to state his case as the club continues a four-game visit to Tropicana Field on Wednesday at 7:10 p.m. ET. Tanaka has permitted two earned runs or fewer in nine of his last 12 starts. Right-hander Ryne Stanek (2-3, 2.70) will start for the Rays.
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.