Nestor Cortes delivers again as scorching Yankees fend off Rays
Two of the best pitchers in the American League faced off in the Bronx on Wednesday night, and as with most things lately, the Yankees came out on top — despite some tense moments late in the game.
Nestor Cortes bounced back from a rare poor start and the Yankees took advantage of another Rays error to pounce on Shane McClanahan en route to a 4-3 win.
The Yankees’ sixth straight victory came with a dose of drama in the final innings.
In the ninth, a bobble from Anthony Rizzo at first base allowed the point guard to reach Clay Holmes. But the Yankees’ closest dominant bounced back to strike out the next three batters, earning his 11th save and extending his scoreless streak to 30 innings.
The Yankees bullpen nearly ruined Cortes’ strong start in the eighth inning, which included a 16-minute delay as manager Aaron Boone attempted to make a pitching change.
Miguel Castro had retired the first two batters of the inning before getting in trouble when he gave up a double to Manuel Margot and hit Randy Arozarena with a pitch. After pitching coach Matt Blake visited Castro on the mound as the Rays staff dealt with Arozarena, Ji-Man Choi was announced as the hitter. At that point, catcher Kyle Higashioka made another visit to the mound to give Lucas Luetge more time to warm up in the bullpen.
Boone then attempted to make the pitching switch, but was met by umpires, who convened for a lengthy meeting to determine whether or not he was cleared.
Eventually, Boone was allowed to call Luetge, who then gave up back-to-back singles that cut the lead to 4-3 before escaping the jam.
Cortes (6-2) left the game with a 4-1 lead after allowing just one run in 5 ¹/₃ innings. It was a strong rebound from last Wednesday at Minnesota, when the Twins beat it for four runs on seven hits in 4 ¹/₃ innings.
A night after the Rays made a pair of errors that led to the two runs in the Yankees’ 2-0 win, they delivered another giveaway on Wednesday that came back stinging.
In the fifth inning, with the Yankees leading 1-0 on Aaron Judge’s 25th home run, Josh Donaldson started by hitting a catch fly ball to right center field. But Brett Phillips – who had entered the game two innings earlier for the sure Kevin Kiermaier (Achilles inflammation) – dropped his glove as Donaldson reached second base.
Two outs later, after McClanahan fell 3-0 behind Isiah Kiner-Falefa, the Rays willingly walked him out.
Higashioka came next and made the Rays pay, smashing a three-run homer just inside the left-field foul post to give the Yankees a 4-0 lead. After not hitting a home run in his first 34 games of the season, Higashioka has now gone deep three times in his last two games.
Meanwhile, Cortes didn’t allow a hit until the third inning, when Yandy Diaz smoked a one-out double.
Cortes responded by striking out the next eight batters in a row before Diaz doubled again to lead the sixth. This time the Rays were able to cash in, as Margot followed one up later by stringing together a double on the third base line to bring Tampa Bay to 4-1.
After Cortes walked Arozarena four pitches, Boone fired him for Wandy Peralta. The left-handed reliever worked his magic, getting a fielder’s pick and a strikeout to block runners in the corners.
Peralta then pitched a perfect seventh inning with two more strikeouts, lowering his ERA to 1.50.