ST. PETERSBURG — Familiarity breeds home runs? At least that’s what Nestor Cortes thinks after getting hammered by the Rays Tuesday night. Cortes gave up a career-high three homers to the Rays, including two to young infielder Isaac Paredes, who hit a third later in the Tampa’s 5-4 win over the Yankees at Tropicana Field Tuesday night.
“I think the game plan they had was pretty good. Obviously facing them three times in a month probably gave them a little bit of an advantage, but if (the pitches) were better located I think I could have done the job,” Cortes said after taking his first loss to the Rays this season.
It was the second loss in the last three games for the Yankees (50-17). They lost to the Blue Jays in Toronto on Sunday but pulled out a win Monday night even after blowing a lead in the eighth. The Bombers still hold an 11-game lead in the American League East, dropping to 25-12 against division opponents. The Rays (37-31) pulled back into a tie for third in the division with the Red Sox. .
Even with Cortes struggling, the Yankees had a chance to come back in the ninth.
Colin Poche, the seventh pitcher the Rays used Tuesday night, walked Gleyber Torres to start the inning. He struck out Aaron Hicks before Marwin Gonzalez homered to cut the lead to a run. Aaron Judge, off for the night, had a chance to tie the game as a pinch hitter. But he broke his bat and flew out to the left-field wall.
“We hear the sound (of the broken bat), but when we saw the ball flying we were expecting to go. He has crazy power, and everybody else hits the ball like that it’s gonna be a blooper over shortstop,” Gonzalez said with a laugh. “Unfortunately, it didn’t go out. So tomorrow we go out and try to do it again.”
For Cortes, it will be a little longer to linger over what happened.
After posting a 1.50 ERA, and allowing just four home runs over 60 innings pitched in his first 10 starts, Cortes has gone 1-2 with a 5.79 ERA and allowed five homers in his last three.
Two of those have been against the Rays. Last week, Cortes held them to one run on three hits over 5.1 innings.
But the Rays, and Isaac Paredes apparently, were watching closely. .
The lefty had thrown just 63 pitches and allowed a season-high tying four runs on six hits when Yankees manager Aaron Boone jumped out of the dugout to stop him from facing Paredes a third time.
Cortes did not walk a batter and struck out three over 4.1 innings of work. He was not fooling the Rays, getting just four swings-and-misses the whole night.
They honed in on his cutter Tuesday night, and hammered it.
“Obviously I gave up a lot of hard contact. So yeah, I guess. I guess that was a game plan tonight,” Cortes said. “Maybe I didn’t execute it to where I wanted to execute it. I think that was the biggest reason why you guys saw what happened today. Think if I executed it a little better. It would have been a different story.”
Paredes must have been paying attention during last week’s series. He went into Tuesday night’s game 0-for-5 against Cortes and with seven career home runs.
After breaking up Gerrit Cole’s no-hit bid with a scorched ground ball back up the middle on Monday, Paredes got the Rays started Tuesday by turning on a cutter in the first inning for his sixth homer of the season and, it would turn out, his first of the night. Harold Ramirez then got a cutter too and hammered it for back-to-back home runs.
In the third, Paredes crushed another cutter for his seventh of the season and second of the night.
In the fifth, after Boone quickly pulled Cortes in reaction to Yandy Diaz’s hard-hit single, Paredes jumped on Clarke Schmidt’s first pitch of the night — a 96-mile an hour fastball ― for his third of the night.
In the seventh, Ron Marinaccio plunked Paredes with an 83-mile an hour changeup.
“We know he’s a talented player. Tampa went and gave up (Yankee slayer Austin) Meadows to get him, he’s obviously been playing a lot for them and gives them some versatility,” Yankees manager said of Paredes. “And, obviously, he’s got that power.”