The Yankees have had some tough games in recent years at Tropicana Field, which has turned into something of a house of horrors. Nestor Cortes isn’t the type of player to be intimidated by past tribulations, however; he even pitched five one-point innings in a Trop victory last year. While solid, this outing was a breeze compared to tonight.
Cortes had a three-hit shutout in the ninth inning, confusing the Rays batters all night. It had all worked out, and although it took the Yankees offense a little while to get going with their makeshift roster full of benchers and late replacements, they opened it up late. Cortes couldn’t complete the shutout, but the Yankees will happily walk away with a 7-2 win in their season opener against the Rays.
The Rays actually tested Cortes right away. Yandy Díaz worked a first walk and as Wander Franco appeared, Harold Ramirez singled to put a runner in scoring position with one out and Randy Arozarena due. The former rookie of the year and playoff hero had a decent swing on the pitch at 2-1, but lifted a fly that Miguel Andújar caught on the warning lane. Díaz scored and moved on to third, but Cortes called on Manuel Margot to line up another ball to Andújar, who caught it on a dive to end the threat.
This Ramirez single turned out to be an anomaly. Cortes and Ryan Yarbrough traded zeros in the run and hit columns in the sixth. Nasty Nestor struck out the next 14 rays in a row, and on the other end, Yarbrough had a no-no through five with the Yankees never really getting close on a hit.
In the top of the sixth, New York finally got something against Yarbrough. They snapped his own retired 14-game batting streak when left-handed newcomer Matt Carpenter pitched the inning, and Marwin Gonzalez also broke the no-hitter with a single to center. That put two men with no one for Aaron Judge, who had uncharacteristically cropped up and been stranded on his first trips to the plate. The third time offered something more familiar: an RBI single to put the Yankees ahead.
Yarbrough asked Anthony Rizzo to fly away, but Rays skipper Kevin Cash opted to go to the bullpen. Reliever Ryan Thompson did his job inducing a popup and a groundball, but Taylor Walls didn’t keep up his end of the bargain. On Andújar’s helicopter at shortstop, Walls didn’t get enough footing and his shot at first bounced back. Two runs scored and the Yankees had a 3-0 lead.
After Cortes once again held off the Rays in the sixth, the Yankees got back to work on another modest rally. Right-hander Ralph Garza Jr. walked Isiah Kiner-Falefa and had bad luck when Jose Trevino’s roll on the third base line stayed fair, hitting the sack. A Carpenter ground run down the right side moved the runners up, and with the judge flat, IKF scored on wild pitch. Although Judge walked, the Yankees had to settle for a four-point advantage as Rizzo blasted away to finish in the lead in seventh.
Three tack-on points in the ninth thanks to a sloppy Rays defense made it 7-0, but by then the story of the night was clearly not the offense. Cortes was absolutely negotiating.
The Rays were held without a hit after the first until Margot doubled correct on the edge of the judge’s glove on a two-out catch attempt in the seventh. Cortes then blocked Vidal Bruján after a single in the eighth, and manager Aaron Boone gave him a chance to complete the shutout.
Unfortunately, Franco’s first single knocked Cortes out of the game, and a shoddy relief from Wandy Peralta got Tampa on the board. By the end of the ninth, another run had scored, but the lead was too big for the Rays to overcome. The final score was 7-2, Yankees and Cortes had another remarkable outing to add to their 2022 reel. His ERA now sits at 1.70 in 53 innings of work. Send this man to the all-star game in Los Angeles, pronto.
The Yankees and Rays will return to action tomorrow night in one of these Amazon Prime Video games. They’ll start at 7:10 p.m. ET with Jameson Taillon set to face southpaw Jeffrey Springs.
The score of the box