Yankees righthander Luis Severino wants every out he can get — even if he has to dash from the mound behind home plate to catch a foul pop-up over the glove of catcher Gary Sanchez.
Severino threw eight shutout innings in the Yankees’ 4-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday at Yankee Stadium, but most of the postgame conversation centered on his fifth-inning catch of a foul ball hit by Carlos Gomez.
With the best winning percentage in baseball (.697) and 13 victories in their last 16 games, the Yankees have the luxury of an oddball play being the focal point of the game.
And so it was, though Aaron Boone does not expect Severino’s race to the rescue to become standard fare.
“I like our pitchers, for the most part, to stay out of the pop-up game,’’ he said. [But] I have no issue with our guy going and being aggressive and playing.’’
The Yankees had given Severino (10-2, 2.09 ERA) a 2-0 lead on Gleyber Torres’ two-out RBI double in the second and Didi Gregorius’ run-scoring single in the third after Aaron Judge’s second straight double.
The Gomez pop-up in foul territory to the third-base side of the plate was routine to perhaps everyone but Sanchez. No one mentioned the foul pop-up he dropped for an error against the Nationals earlier in the week, but a little extra help couldn’t hurt. Severino hustled in from the mound, got around Sanchez — who apparently needs to work on his boxing-out technique — jumped over him and took it away. That prompted a friendly stare from Sanchez, a pat on the chest protector from Severino and laughter from CC Sabathia in the dugout.
“He didn’t say ‘I got it’ until I was there,’’ Severino said, “so, you know, I went for the ball. When I jumped, I hear ‘I got it,’ but I was already in the air.’’
Said Sanchez, “Once I turned around, the sun was right there in my eyes. I was able to get in a good spot to catch it and that’s when I heard some footsteps very close to me. It was very surprising. He jumped and caught it. It was just his instinct, just to make a play there.’’
Sanchez said it was the first time a pitcher caught a foul ball over him. Asked if Severino stole the ball from him, Sanchez said, “I had it. I had it. And when I closed my glove, I caught his glove.’’
Was Sanchez bothered by the play? “He was fine,’’ Boone said. “Sevy and him are like brothers. I didn’t hear the banter, but they were kind of just going back and forth about that in the dugout . . . If you watch Sevy’s reaction, at least it looked like to me he saw Gary kind of struggling with finding it and he went into ‘go catch it mode,’ which I thought was a smart thing to do.’’
Severino struck out the next two batters and wound up retiring 11 straight batters before Joey Wendle got the Rays’ third hit off him. He struck out nine, walked two and did have some location issues early.
“I noticed he was missing location, especially with the fastball,’’ Sanchez said. “He was missing in good spots, though, because he was pitching up and inside. If you miss, that’s where we want to miss.’’
In his last 12 starts, Severino is 8-1 with a 1.78 ERA, a 0.88 WHIP and 98 strikeouts in 81 innings.
The Yankees got consecutive home runs from Giancarlo Stanton (No. 16) to leftfield and Sanchez (No. 13) into Monument Park off Ryan Yarbrough in the fifth for a 4-0 lead. That was more than enough for Severino, who wanted to complete the game but was removed after throwing 102 pitches.
“I was hoping,’’ he said. “That last inning, I said to Boonie, ‘Give me 10 more pitches.’ He told me no, I have to save my arm.’’
In the ninth, Chasen Shreve allowed a leadoff home run by Matt Duffy and a triple by Jake Bauers that hit off the glove of Aaron Hicks in left-center. Aroldis Chapman retired the next three batters on two grounders and a strikeout for his 20th save.
Notes & quotes: The Yankees (46-20) moved a game ahead of the Red Sox (48-24), who lost to the Mariners, 1-0 . . . Minor-league infielder Wendell Rijo was obtained from the Brewers as the player to be named in the May 25 deal for catcher Erik Kratz.
With Roger Rubin