Yankees get over the three-game series sweep hump

Finally.

The Yankees found a way to sweep a three-game series — just make sure the other team does not score. Wednesday night marked the eighth time this season that the Yankees went into the finale of a three-game series after having won the first two games and the first time they completed a sweep.

They have had two sweeps of four games and one of two games this season, but it took me them until their 34th three-game series of the season to sweep an opponent, and not just any opponent but the team that came to town Monday night in first place in the American League East.

The Yankees cost the Blue Jays sole possession of the top spot earlier in the series as the Red Sox moved into a first-place tie. A possible Boston victory later Wednesday night at San Diego could have shoved Toronto into second place.

Meanwhile, up, up, up go the Yankees in the AL East standings and the wild card race. Should the Red Sox have also lost, the Yanks would have been only 3 1/2 games out of first place. As for the wild card scenario, the Orioles, Tigers and Astros all lost, so the Yankees trail Baltimore by 2 1/2 games, Detroit by 1 1/2 and Houston by 1/2. Tight, tight, tight.

The Yankees have won 10 of their past 14 games, 17 of their past 26 and are 29-21 since the All-Star break. Not bad for a club that dealt its three best players before the Aug. 1 non-waiver trading deadline and bid three-time AL MVP Alex Rodriguez farewell Aug. 12. The Yankees are 14-9 in the post-A-Rod era.

The vacancies have been filled by energetic pitchers and hitters up from the organization-wide success in the minor leagues. Two of the youth corps, Bryan Mitchell and Luis Severino, combined for eight scoreless innings in Wednesday night’s 2-0 victory.

The Yankees got both runs after two were out in the third off Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman. Starlin Castro slammed his 20th home run of the season. Didi Gregorius doubled into the left field corner and scored following a walk to Mark Teixeira on a single by Brian McCann. Castro’s homer was hits 20th, a career high. He is the fourth Yankees second baseman with a 20-homer season. Robinson Cano did it five times, Hall of Famer Joe Gordon four and Alfonso Soriano two.

Mitchell probably would have broken camp with the Yankees in April, but a left toe tear kept him on the disabled list until last month when he worked his way back with Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The righthander pitched one batter into the sixth and allowed four hits and two walks with two strikeouts before turning matters over to Severino.

Yankees officials still consider Severino a starter, but he has been far more effective as a reliever this year. The numbers do not lie. With three more scoreless, one-hit, one-walk, three-strikeout innings, Severino is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in 14 1/3 innings out of the bullpen. As a starter, Severino was 0-8 with an 8.58 ERA in 43 innings.

Manager Joe Girardi’s plan was to have Severino available to support Mitchell (1-0), and it worked perfectly. Tyler Clippard worked a perfect ninth with two strikeouts for his second save.

More AL East competition is coming up with the last-place Rays coming to Yankee Stadium for a four-game set starting Thursday night. And just when the Yanks were getting a hand of this three-game series stuff.

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