NEW YORK -- Luis Severino harnessed his electric arsenal to produce the deepest outing of any Yankees starting pitcher over the last two weeks, firing eight scoreless innings in a 3-0 victory over the Royals on Wednesday night at the Stadium.
Severino gave the Yanks' fatigued bullpen a breather by limiting Kansas City to just four hits in a 114-pitch performance, increasing New York's lead to a season-high 2 1/2 games over Baltimore in the American League East. Dellin Betances struck out the side in the ninth for his fourth save.
"It feels good to help the team, to give an outing like this," Severino said. "I have to keep working, keep trying to be in the game more. I feel more confidence in my changeup and my fastball. I feel good."
The first Yankees pitcher since May 8 to complete at least seven innings, Severino called it the best outing of his brief career. Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain would probably agree, saying that Severino was "lights out" and "pretty much unhittable."
"You can look at film all day, but stepping in the box is a whole other world," Cain said. "Throwing 96 to 100 [mph], huge slider, changeup. I don't know where they found that guy, but he's pretty darn good."
"Our guys were facing a 100 [mph fastball] with a never-before-seen curveball," Hammel said. "That's tough."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED More than one way to do it: Each of the previous 15 runs in the series had been driven in via homers before Gary Sanchez led off the sixth inning with a single, stole second base -- just his second career steal -- and advanced to third on a Salvador Perez throwing error. Holliday lifted a sacrifice fly to deep right field that gave the Yankees a 2-0 lead. It was Perez's first error since last Aug. 25 at Miami.
"Someone just always steps up for us," Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge said. "You never know who's going to step up. After a loss, we always try to bounce back."
Immediate impact:Alcides Escobar was first-pitch swinging from the beginning of the game, barreling a 97.1-mph Severino fastball to deep center field, where center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury ran it down before crashing into the wall. According to Statcast™, Escobar's ball had a 73 percent hit probability. Ellsbury left the game an inning later and was diagnosed with a concussion and a sprained neck. More >
"It's a great play. It set the tone of the game," Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner said. "Escobar's standing on third, or it's 1-0 if it comes out of his glove. Great play on his part. I know Sevvy appreciated it and it allowed Sevvy to get into a good groove and carry that momentum right through the eighth."
WHAT'S NEXT Royals: Rookie right-hander Miguel Almonte will make his first Major League start on Thursday in the series finale against the Yankees at 12:05 p.m. CT. Almonte, 24, is 1-0 with a 2.17 ERA in seven appearances, six starts, at Double-A Northwest Arkansas.
Yankees: Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (5-3, 6.56 ERA) hopes to bounce back from the roughest two-start span of his career on Thursday at 1:05 p.m. ET as the Yankees complete a four-game set with the Royals. Tanaka has permitted 14 earned runs in his last 4 2/3 innings (27.00 ERA) after going 5-0 with a 2.78 ERA in his previous five outings.