NEW YORK — On and off the mound, Luis Severino seemed completely at ease.
The sizzling rookie won his third straight start, Alex Rodriguez hit his 681st career home run and the New York Yankees beat the Tampa Bay Rays 5-2 on Friday night for their sixth win in seven games.
"I have confidence," the 21-year-old Severino said. "My team made me feel comfortable."
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Severino felt relaxed enough to do his postgame interviews in English for the first time. Born and raised in the Dominican Republic, he usually spoke in Spanish and had a teammate translate for him.
Severino (3-2), looking more and more like a key starter in the playoff rotation if the Yankees make it that far, has a 2.04 ERA after his first six big-league starts.
"He has confidence in what he’s doing," manager Joe Girardi said. "He knows what he needs to do."
Brian McCann and Greg Bird also homered for the Yankees, who hold the top AL wild-card spot and are a half-game behind East-leading Toronto. New York won with just four hits: an infield tapper and three long balls.
"We need to hit the ball out of the ballpark and we did," Girardi said.
Evan Longoria hit his third homer in two games for the Rays, still on the edge of the wild-card race despite seven losses in 11 games. Tampa Bay got nine hits, while the Yankees never had an at-bat with a runner in scoring position.
"Little bit of a strange pitching duel. We got the hits but couldn’t get anything across," Rays manager Kevin Cash said.
The 40-year-old Rodriguez gave the Yankees the lead with a two-run drive in the second inning and Severino kept them ahead.
Severino hit 97 mph with his fastball and threw shutout ball until Longoria’s homer in the sixth, ending his 16-inning scoreless streak.
Severino worked around seven hits and three walks in 6 1/3 innings, striking out five in his longest outing in the majors. He slapped his hand into his glove after fanning Kevin Kiermaier with high heat to end the sixth with two runners on, protecting a 3-1 lead.
"I want to get the out," Severino said.
After J.P. Arencibia hit an RBI double in the ninth off Adam Warren, Andrew Miller got two outs for his 30th save in 31 chances.
Jake Odorizzi (6-8) has gotten the worst run support among AL starters this year, and again the Rays gave him little margin for mistakes. He fell to 0-3 against the Yankees this season and is winless in his last seven starts overall.
McCann drew a leadoff walk in the second and Rodriguez followed with his 27th homer of the season and first since Aug. 20.
McCann tied a career high with his 24th home run in the fourth. The solo shot made him 11 for 17 with seven extra-base hits against Odorizzi, including three home runs.
Bird connected on a two-run drive in the seventh, the fourth homer for the rookie first baseman and second in two games. He again filled in for Mark Teixeira, the team leader in home runs, who was put on the disabled list before the game with a bone bruise on his right shin.
Logan Forsythe singled in the Tampa Bay second, his ninth straight time reaching base. He struck out in his next at-bat.
Rays: OF Steven Souza took batting practice on the field before the game, and will start a rehab assignment Saturday with Triple-A Durham. He’s been out a month since a pitch from Boston’s Joe Kelly broke his left hand. He’s hit 15 homers in 89 games for the Rays this year. He could rejoin the team next week in Detroit.
Yankees: CF Jacoby Ellsbury left after four innings because of an upset stomach. Girardi said he wasn’t sure whether Ellsbury would be OK for Saturday afternoon’s game.
Rays: LHP Matt Moore (1-3, 8.78) returns to the majors after going 2-1 during a tuneup trip to Triple-A, including a 16-strikeout performance. He came back from Tommy John surgery on July 2, made six starts for the Rays and was sent down.
Yankees: RHP Nathan Eovaldi (14-2, 4.17) is 9-0 in his past 13 starts, the longest winning streak in the majors this season.
New York has won the opener in its last seven homestands. The Yankees began a 10-game stay that will include visits from Baltimore and Toronto.