NEW YORK -- For a while, Luis Severino seemed headed for one of those tough-luck losses.
It might explain why Severino was among the more enthusiastic greeters in the dugout after teammate Aaron Hicks gave him the lead.
Severino struck out a career-high 11 in seven outstanding innings, and Hicks rewarded him by hitting his second home run of the game -- a go-ahead, two-run shot with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning -- as the New York Yankees edged the Tampa Bay Rays 3-2 on Thursday.
The Yankees swept the three-game series.
"He's a young pitcher," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Severino. "There's a ton of upside and potential with Sevvy, and tonight he showed us what he's capable of doing."
Severino (1-0) won for the first time as a starting pitcher since beating the Chicago White Sox on Sept. 27, 2015. Last year, he was 0-8 as a starter, and questions persisted about whether the right-hander should be in the bullpen or the rotation.
"I thought about that, but I just want to contribute to the Yankees to win games," Severino said.
He won a job in the rotation and seemed headed for a win last Friday in Baltimore before allowing a home run to Manny Machado. On Thursday, Severino allowed a home run to Peter Bourjos that put Tampa Bay in front 2-1 in the fifth on a similar pitch to the one Machado hit.
Instead of folding, Severino quickly rebounded and struck out five of the final seven hitters to become the first Yankee to complete seven innings this season. At 23 years, 52 days, he became the youngest Yankee to register 11 strikeouts since Al Leiter (22 years, 174 days) on April 14, 1988.
"That's a bad pitch, that thing is going to happen," Severino said of Bourjos' homer.
Severino also joined Michael Pineda as the second Yankee to get 11 strikeouts in the series. Pineda had a lead most of his outing, but Severino did not get the lead for good until Hicks drove a 1-1 breaking ball from left-hander Xavier Cedeno into the left field seats.
"It felt good," said Hicks, a switch hitter who went deep from both sides of the plate Thursday. "(Severino) pitched amazing. He kept us in the game. For me to be able to reward him like that, it felt good."
Hicks, who lost a tough spring training competition with Aaron Judge to be the everyday right fielder, also homered in the first inning from the left side against right-hander Matt Andriese.
It was Hicks' second career two-homer game. His other occurred May 13, 2013, at Minnesota when he hit solo home runs off Chicago White Sox left-hander Hector Santiago.
After Severino finished his strong outing and Hicks hit his second home run, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman pitched a scoreless inning apiece. Betances escaped a first-and-third situation in the eighth, and Hicks caught the final out in the ninth as Chapman recorded his second save.
The Rays (5-5) lost their third straight after getting off to the best seven-game start in team history. They struck out 38 times in the series.
By being unable to do much off Severino, Tampa Bay wasted a decent outing from Andriese, who allowed one run and five hits in six innings while constantly pitching with men on base.
Besides Boujos' home run, the only other offense for Tampa Bay against Severino was an RBI single by Jesus Sucre in the second. Sucre's hit proved costly as Mallex Smith injured his right hamstring on a rundown play between second and third as Logan Morrison scored.
"He looked good," Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said of Severino. "He's looked good every time we've seen him, even when he was coming out of the bullpen at the end of last year. He's got electric stuff, a big, big fastball.
"He kept the ball down really well tonight. He was able to pitch at the knees, and I think that allowed him to be so effective."
NOTES: New York LF Brett Gardner and Tampa Bay INF Rickie Weeks did not play Thursday after their violent collision in the sixth inning Wednesday. Both players said they were feeling sore and also felt fortunate that the result of the collision was not worse. ... OF Colby Rasmus (hip surgery) could resume a rehab assignment sometime this weekend. He began a rehab stint last week with Class A Charlotte, but it was halted when he collided with another outfielder. ... The Yankees said Jordan Montgomery's seven strikeouts Wednesday were the second most by a left-hander in his major league debut for the team since 1913. Al Leiter had eight strikeouts against the Milwaukee Brewers on Sept. 15, 1987. ... Tampa Bay was swept by the Yankees in New York for the first time since dropping four straight in September 2009.