BOSTON — Nestor Cortes spent the first six years of his career in the minors adapting and adjusting. The crafty lefthander found ways to get outs, fearing if he didn’t he would get released. Now, Cortes has to dig deep back into that and figure out how to adjust again.
Cortes needs to figure out how to get the Red Sox out. Friday night, the star of the early part of this season could not get out of the fourth inning, spared a loss by Josh Donaldson and the offense as the Bombers beat Boston 12-5 at Fenway Park.
It was the Yankees’ (61-23) third straight win and fourth out of five against Boston. They maintained the best record in baseball. The Red Sox dropped to third in the division, 16 games back. The Bombers have a 15-game lead over the Rays.
Donaldson continued to break out of his June swoon in dramatic fashion with his third homer in as many games and Matt Carpenter, hitting third, hit his ninth home run of the season. Carpenter has 18 hits total. Aaron Hicks went 2-for-2 with two walks. It was his third multi-hit game in a row. Gleyber Torres had three hits, driving in two.
The Yankees offense teed off on the Red Sox pitching, tagging rookie righthander Connor Seabold with seven runs on nine hits in just 2.2 innings.
And their bullpen was excellent, especially their middle relievers. Miguel Castro posted his fifth consecutive scoreless outing, going 1.1. Albert Abreu was charged with a run in 0.2 of an inning, but Lucas Luetge finished it off with 3.1 scoreless.
That got Cortes off the hook, but there is no escaping the fact Cortes has struggled against the Red Sox ever since coming to the big leagues. It was his eighth career appearance against Boston, he has allowed 17 earned runs in 18 innings pitched.
Friday night, Cortes was handed a 4-0 lead on Donaldson’s three-run shot, his third homer in as many days, and Torres’ RBI single.
He immediately gave back two on a long, high fly ball that Matt Carpenter, playing in left field for the first time since 2012, overran and Aaron Hicks had to play.
The Red Sox kept him grinding with base runners in every inning he worked, but he got through the second and third unscathed.
Trevor Story teed off on a first-pitch, 85-mile an hour cutter to lead off the fourth. Bobby Dalbec hammered a first-pitch, 91-mile an hour fastball and then Cortes gave up a double to former Yankees’ prospect Rob Refsnyder. The Yankees left him in to face lefty-slugger Rafael Devers with one on and one out. Cortes needed five pitches, but got the Red Sox third baseman to swing and miss on a 93 mph slider.
That was it for Cortes Friday night, an unsettling one for the Yankees.
It’s not just the opponent that has given Cortes fits.
Over his last seven starts, Cortes has pitched to a 4.04 ERA and given up 10 home runs. He allowed just 10 earned runs and four homers in his first nine starts.
The 3.2 innings was a season worst, his shortest start since July 4, 2021 when he went just 3.1 innings in a win over the Mets.
It was the eighth no-decision for Cortes, who benefitted from the Yankees offense. Donaldson has homered in three straight games and driven in 10 runs. In 22 games in June, Donaldson hit .205/.274/.325 with a .599 OPS, a home run, seven RBI and 28 strikeouts. So far, six games into July, the 36-year old has three homers and 10 RBI.
“It’s been great, because I really feel like he’s been so close for really the bulk of the season,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “I feel like he’s gotten a good swing off a lot, just missed here, just a little bit in and out the last couple of days. He’s obviously getting some real results …That’s what he’s capable of. He’s gonna get rolling and we’re gonna hop on at some point with him and he’s gonna play such a big part in this, because he can still do that right there.”