By RONALD BLUM AP Baseball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) _ Aaron Hicks homered twice, including a go-ahead, two-run drive in the seventh inning, and the New York Yankees beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-2 Thursday night to move above .500 for the first time this season.
Luis Severino (1-0) struck out a career-high 11 in seven innings, including four of his last five batters. The Yankees completed a three-game sweep and won their fourth in a row following a 1-4 start.
Hicks homered in the first off Matt Andriese batting left-handed and connected right-handed against Xavier Cedeno to erase a 2-1 deficit. Ronald Torreyes singled with one out in the seventh off Erasmo Ramirez, and Rays manager Kevin Cash brought in Cedeno (1-1), the only lefty in his bullpen. Jacoby Ellsbury grounded into a forceout, and Hicks sent a changeup into the left-field seats.
Acquired from Minnesota in November 2015, Hicks hit .217 with 31 RBIs in a miserable first season with New York.
Dellin Betances pitched out of trouble in the eighth after Jesus Sucre walked and took third on Corey Dickerson’s single. Betances froze Kevin Kiermaier and Evan Longoria with sliders for called third strikes, then picked up Brad Miller’s slow roller to the right side and tagged him just before first base.
Aroldis Chapman allowed Logan Morrison’s one-out single in the ninth, then threw a called third strike past Daniel Robertson and retired Peter Bourjos on a flyout.
Tampa Bay batters struck out 15 times as the Rays dropped to 5-5.
Sucre’s two-out RBI single tied the score in the second and Bourjos homered in the fifth, two innings after Bourjos entered because of Mallex Smith’s tight right hamstring. Bourjos’ homer was his first for the Rays.
Andriese started 22 of 25 batters with strikes, allowing one run and six hits in six innings.
Starlin Castro stranded the bases loaded when he struck out ending the third, and Torreyes hit an inning-ending flyout in the fourth, leaving runners at second and third.
The Yankee Stadium scoreboard flashed flames each time it revealed a velocity of 100 mph or more for Chapman.
Cedeno said he saw a signal that the infield would be back before turning to second on Brett Gardner’s seventh-inning comebacker Wednesday and realizing the fielders had moved in and no one was covering the base. Cedeno bounced a rushed throw to first for an error as Gardner and Rickie Weeks Jr. collided, and the go-ahead run scored.
“I should have stepped off the rubber and looked back and see where the infielders were,” Cedeno said. “I totally take the blame for it.”
Gardner (bruised jaw, sore neck) and Weeks (bruised right shoulder joint) didn’t play. Gardner passed a concussion protocol. “My baseline was probably pretty low in the first place,” he quipped and then added of Weeks: “I picked a bad guy to run into.” Weeks, like Gardner, maintained he could play Thursday if needed. “I’m happy to be alive right now,” he said.
Yankees: 1B Greg Bird started after missing four games because of a sore right ankle and a stomach ailment and went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts, dropping to 1 for 20 this season.
Rays: Chris Archer (1-0) went ahead of the team by train to Boston for Friday’s matchup against the Red Sox and RHP Rick Porcello (1-0).
Yankees: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (0-1) takes an 11.74 ERA over two starts into Friday night’s game against St. Louis and RHP Michael Wacha (1-0).
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