Nestor Cortes navigated his final six innings without a run crossing the plate, but his slumping Yankees teammates never recovered from one big swing in the All-Star lefty’s initial frame.
Randy Arozarena jumped Cortes for a three-run homer in the first inning of a 3-1 loss to the Rays at the Stadium, the skidding Yankees’ 11th loss in 13 games.
Yandy Diaz and Isaac Paredes opened the game against Cortes with singles before Arozarena clubbed an inside 1-1 four-seamer into the left-field seats for a quick 3-0 lead.
“I gave up two singles to start the game, and he beat me with my best pitch,” Cortes said after his record dropped to 9-4 on the season. “I have to tip my cap. He was hunting it, and he got the pitch to hit. I think it was a ball off [the plate], if I can remember. I couldn’t do anything about it. I gave him my best pitch.”
Cortes didn’t allow another hit until Harold Ramirez’s infield single toward third base with one out in the fifth. But the Yankees’ only run — and first in three games following two consecutive shutouts — came when Andrew Benintendi ripped a one-out triple in the fifth and scored when Miguel Andujar reached on an error by Diaz at third base.
“The good thing is we got another really good starting pitching performance. Nestor gives us seven strong,” Aaron Boone said of Cortes, who has given up three runs or fewer in 19 of his 22 starts this season. “Obviously, Arozarena clips him on not a terrible pitch. He goes up-and-in off the plate there with that heater, and Arozarena, to his credit, sold out to it and was able to keep it fair.”
Those three runs represented more than the output the Yankees’ offense has averaged over its past 12 games (2.75), as compared to 5.4 runs per game over the team’s first 105 contests. The starting rotation has posted a 2.83 ERA over the past eight outings, but the Yanks are 2-6 in that span.
“It’s a little surprising obviously with the kind of hitters we have and the guys in that lineup. I think it’s shocked everybody,” Cortes said. “But these guys are capable of doing a lot of good things, like they have in the first half. I don’t think it’s a problem for us. I think we’re gonna turn it around soon.”