NEW YORK — On a night it became even more clear the Yankees will face the Twins in the Wild Card, their manager, Joe Girardi, got perhaps the best sign his team will be ready.
Sure, the Yankees rocked the Rays, 6-1, behind three home runs at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday night.
The bigger deal? Luis Severino in ace form.
Severino, who’s lined up to start the Wild Card on Tuesday, thrashed Tampa Bay, making just one mistake that lead to a run all night. He was in control early and late. He was fiery on the mound. He touched 99 mph. His ERA for the season fell just below 3.00, to 2.98.
“It’s been an unbelievable season,” Girardi said before the game, referring to Severino’s campaign that will likely land him with at least a top-five American League Cy Young finish.
“I look at what he’s done during the course of the year and the growth in him, matching up so many times against aces and being able to deliver for us.”
WHAT IT MEANS
The win kept the Yankees’ AL East hopes alive — but barely.
They can only lose one more game — with the Red Sox losing the rest of their games — to win the race.
The Red Sox beat the Blue Jays in Boston, keeping the second-place Yankees behind by three games with only four left to play.
Meanwhile, the Twins went into Wednesday needing one more victory or an Angels loss to clinch the road position in the Wild Card.
YOU SHOULD KNOW
Of course, the Yankees’ bats delivered, too.
After falling behind briefly, Aaron Judge responded in the fifth inning to give the Yankees their first lead, 2-1.
He worked a 2-0 count against Rays starter Matt Andriese before running it full. Then he showed how much progress he’s made since his long, post-All-Star-break slump, staying back on an 81-mph curveball and ripping it down the left-field line.
Jacoby Ellsbury scored easily from third base but Aaron Hicks chugged in from first, a couple steps ahead of the throw.
Then the Yankees blew it open.
Starlin Castro, Greg Bird and Aaron Hicks each homered in a four-run sixth inning, making it 6-1 Yankees.
Castro and Bird went back to back. Hicks homered after Chase Headley singled and Jacoby Ellsbury grounded out to the pitcher and moved Headley to second.
Castro pimped his shot. The righty watched it fly far over the left-center wall and paused an extra two seconds with his bat extended to admire it. It was his second blast in as many days and 16th on the season.
That brought in reliever Xavier Cedeno. The Yankees pounded him. Bird…