ST. PETERSBURG, Florida — Two youngsters sent the New York Yankees to a big win in the pressure of a pennant race.
Prized rookie Luis Severino rebounded from his worst start, Greg Bird homered and drove in two runs, and the Yankees beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 on Wednesday night to keep pace in the AL playoff chase.
The second-place Yankees, who lead the wild-card standings, took two of three from Tampa Bay and stayed three games behind Toronto in the AL East.
"It's great to help the team win," Severino said.
Severino (4-3) allowed one run and six hits in 5 2-3 innings. The right-hander gave up a career-high six earned runs over 2 1-3 innings in an 11-5 loss Friday to Toronto.
"He bounced back extremely well, which is good to see," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
After Bird had a second-inning RBI double, Chase Headley put the Yankees up 2-0 with a run-scoring single in the sixth. Bird, also a rookie, made it 3-1 on his ninth-inning shot.
"It's been a lot of fun to watch," Yankees center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury said of the contributions from Severino and Bird, who is filling in for injured first baseman Mark Teixeira.
"Get an opportunity and work hard," said Bird, who has seven homers in 29 games. "Go out and do it."
Justin Wilson, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller, who pitched the ninth for his 34th save, combined for 3 1-3 scoreless innings for New York.
Chris Archer (12-12) gave up two runs, four hits, four walks and struck out seven over six innings for the Rays. His fourth strikeout of the game, coming against Brett Gardner in the third, broke Scott Kazmir's single-season club mark of 239 set in 2007.
"It's a nice accomplishment, for sure," Archer said.
Steven Souza Jr. cut the Rays' deficit to 2-1 on a towering, run-scoring double that Ellsbury lost sight of near the warning track. A video review failed to determine if the ball had struck an overhanging catwalk, which would have made it a game-tying homer.
"I don't know if it went over the catwalk or maybe nicked something," Ellsbury said. "I don't really know what happened."
Betances entered with one out in the seventh and walked the bases loaded before striking out James Loney on three pitches. Loney had gone 3 for 3 against Severino.
Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez went 0 for 4 in his second game since an MRI exam Tuesday determined he has a bruised left knee. The designated hitter homered Tuesday.
"I feel fine," Rodriguez said before the series finale. "It's banged up a little bit, but it's ready to go."
A-Rod will get a chance to rest the knee during a three-game interleague series against the NL East-leading New York Mets that starts Friday night at Citi Field because the designated hitter will not be used in the NL ballpark.
Rays: SS Asdrubal Cabrera (strained left knee) could miss at least a few days. ... Relievers Jake McGee (left knee) and Xavier Cedeno (side) will throw to hitters Thursday. C Curt Casali (hamstring) will be among the batters.
The Rays will hold a news conference Friday to announce that 1B Carlos PeÃ±a has been signed and the 14-year veteran will immediately announce his retirement. Pena is currently a TV analyst.
Ellsbury, mired in an 0-for-25 slide, had two hits in three at-bats against Archer. Ellsbury is 16 for 24 overall against the right-hander. ... Betances has not allowed an earned run in his last 36 road outings, dating to Aug. 28, 2014. ... Loney is 5 for 5 overall off Severino.
Yankees: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (12-6) and Mets LHP Steven Matz (3-0) are Friday night's starters.
Rays: LHP Matt Moore (1-4) will face Orioles RHP Chris Tillman (9-11) in the opener of a four-game series Thursday night.