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Severino, bullpen handcuff Mariners

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SEATTLE -- Brett Gardner's solo home run in the sixth inning helped lift the Yankees to a 4-1 victory over the Mariners on Thursday as flame-throwing Luis Severino outdueled Felix Hernandez in the opening game of a four-game series at Safeco Field.

"It shows you he understands what he needs to do," New York manager Joe Girardi said of Severino. "He has to get after it from the first hitter and that's exactly what he's doing because two runs could beat you when you're facing guys like that."

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SEATTLE -- Brett Gardner's solo home run in the sixth inning helped lift the Yankees to a 4-1 victory over the Mariners on Thursday as flame-throwing Luis Severino outdueled Felix Hernandez in the opening game of a four-game series at Safeco Field.

"It shows you he understands what he needs to do," New York manager Joe Girardi said of Severino. "He has to get after it from the first hitter and that's exactly what he's doing because two runs could beat you when you're facing guys like that."

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Hernandez threw a seven-inning gem, allowing just three hits and one run with nine strikeouts, but was the tough-luck loser as he fell to 5-4 with a 3.88 ERA. Robinson Cano went 3-for-5 with an RBI double against his former Yankees team, but Seattle lost its first game of a key 10-game homestand after a 5-1 road trip got it back in Wild Card contention.

Video: NYY@SEA: Cano belts an RBI double in the 9th

"It was an outstanding pitching performance on both sides," said Mariners manager Scott Servais. "I thought Felix was really sharp. We couldn't have asked for anything more from him tonight. Unfortunately, the guy on the other side was a little bit better. Severino was about as good as we've seen all year. We've had some well-pitched games against us, but the stuff he fired out there, you usually don't see guys carry velocity that late into a ballgame."

Vintage Felix an encouraging sign

The Yankees added an unearned run in the eighth on a bases-loaded single by Aaron Judge off reliever Tony Zych for his 68th RBI of the year and two more unearned runs in the ninth. Judge struck out twice and walked once against Hernandez in his first meeting against the longtime Mariners ace.

Video: NYY@SEA: Judge doubles lead with RBI single in 8th

Severino, an American League All-Star, picked up his first win since June 10 as he scattered eight hits and one walk over seven scoreless innings with six strikeouts. The 23-year-old improved to 6-4 with a 3.21 ERA and helped the Yankees even their record at 4-4 on their 11-game road trip.

"Man, he's been unbelievable," Gardner said. "Not just tonight, but last weekend in Boston and really the whole first half. It's been a lot of fun seeing him continue to grow and it's all about fastball command for him. He's been really, really good with that recently. It makes it really easy for us on the defensive side of the ball. There's not a whole lot of action going on out there."

Dellin Betances wiggled out of a two-on, one-out situation in the eighth for the Yankees before Aroldis Chapman closed out the ninth while allowing Cano's run-scoring double.

"It's something that we are trying to get straightened out," Girardi said of Betances and Chapman. "Dellin did a good job of making some big pitches there, and Chappy did a good job of getting out of the inning, but the walks hurt."

Video: NYY@SEA: Betances fans Dyson, strands two to end 8th

The Yankees are just 11-22 since June 13, the worst mark in the Majors in that span, but still hold the No. 2 WIld Card position by one game over the Twins and 2 1/2 games over the Mariners at 49-45. Seattle, winner of seven of its previous nine, slipped to 48-49.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Crankin' it up: Severino denied the Mariners in the fourth with some powerful pitching as he escaped a bases-loaded jam by getting Jean Segura to ground out to short on a 100-mph fastball. Severino hit 101.2 mph on the previous pitch, per Statcast™, which is the highest velocity by a starting pitcherin the Majors this year. The Mariners had runners on first and third with no out after a double by Kyle Seager and single by Danny Valencia, but Severino got Mitch Haniger to pop out on a first-pitch fastball and Jarrod Dyson to fly out to shallow center. He then walked Mike Zunino before getting Segura for the final out.

Video: NYY@SEA: Severino escapes bases-loaded trouble in 4th

Covering serious ground: Seattle's outfield defense has been the best-rated group in the Majors this year and they showed why in the fifth inning. Center fielder Dyson ran down a high fly into the left-center gap to deny Didi Gregorius on a play Statcast™ rated as a 5-star catch, the hardest play to make with just a 21-percent catch probability. One out later, left fielder Ben Gamel closed out the frame by running down a drive into the same gap by Jacoby Ellsbury on a 4-star catch with a 41-percent catch probability.

"Awesome," said Servais. "Dyson can really track it down. You're watching him and you say, 'No chance he's going to get there,' and all the sudden he does. Our guys have been really good all year. That's why we lead the league in Defensive Runs Saved from our outfield and they showed why again tonight."

Video: NYY@SEA: Dyson, Gamel cover ground in outfield

QUOTABLE
"The ball explodes out of his hand. That was pretty good. Look, the guy started the game throwing 98-101, the next guy [Betances] was 98-100, then Chapman? That's pretty impressive." -- Hernandez on the Yankees' power arms

"I just feel very good. But we have a lot of good guys here. For me, the ace here is going to be CC [Sabathia] all the time. He's a fighter and a warrior and that's how I look at it." -- Severino on Gardner saying postgame that he was Yankees' ace

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Cano's double in the ninth was the first extra-base hit by a left-hander off Chapman this year. The last lefty to touch him for extra bases? That would be Mariners outfielder Leonys Martin on July 30 of last season when Chapman was pitching for the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

UPON FURTHER REVIEW
The Mariners successfully challenged a safe call at first on a fielder's choice grounder by Matt Holliday in the fourth when he was ruled safe at first. But the call was overturned following a one-minute, 45-second review, and Holliday thus hit into a double play.

The Mariners unsuccessfully challenged in the eighth that Yankees' second baseman Starlin Castro lost control of the ball in his glove while transferring it to his throwing hand with Valencia sliding into second. It was deemed Castro had the ball long enough on the base for it to count as an out, and the call was confirmed.

Video: NYY@SEA: Mariners nab Holliday, get DP after review

WHAT'S NEXT
Yankees: CC Sabathia (8-3, 3.54 ERA) gets the start Friday in a place where he's had a lot of success. Sabathia is making his 14th start at Safeco Field for the 10:10 p.m ET start, where he's 9-1 with a 2.09 ERA. He's been lights out lately, posting a 1.60 ERA in his last six starts.

Mariners: Andrew Moore (1-1, 5.25 ERA) makes his fifth MLB start in Friday's 7:10 p.m. PT game and will be looking to rebound from his first rough outing, as the 23-year-old right-hander gave up six hits and five runs over three innings to the White Sox last Sunday.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast.

Josh Horton is a reporter for MLB.com based in Seattle. He covered the Yankees on Thursday.