Nestor Cortes‘ late-inning struggles continued Wednesday as the Yankees blew a four-run lead and suffered a 9-6 loss to the Baltimore Orioles.
Four things to know from Wednesday’s rain-delayed game
1. Unable to pitch with a 5-1 lead in the seventh inning, Cortes (4-3, 5.30 ERA) let the Orioles back into a game that should have been over. After Anthony Santander‘s leadoff walk and Austin Hays‘ single to left field, Adam Frazier‘s three-run homer down the right-field line suddenly narrowed the Yankees’ 5-4 edge. Jimmy Cordero replaced Cortes, but the bleeding continued as Baltimore bludgeoned New York — including Albert Abreu, who relieved Cordero — for five more runs.
Cordero and Abreu allowed a combined five runs on five hits, but the avalanche started with Cortes, whose inability to pitch effectively deep into his starts has been a recent trend. Through 10 starts, he has only gone seven innings once.
Before last Thursday’s quality start in a 4-2 win at the Toronto Blue Jays, Cortes’ previous four outings were rough, including an 8.53 ERA and 6.01 FIP over 19 IP. The Yankees need more from Cortes, who scattered four runs (three earned) on five hits (two homers) and struck out five to two walks while throwing 89 pitches (63 strikes) in 6 IP but set the stage for a complete unraveling when the game was all New York.
2. The Yankees loaded the bases in the bottom half of the seventh, and Anthony Rizzo‘s single to center field chipped away at the Orioles’ 9-6 lead, but DJ LeMahieu‘s strikeout swinging and Harrison Bader‘s ground out to third base stranded Gleyber Torres and Aaron Judge in scoring position.
3. Prior to Cortes and the bullpen imploding in the seventh, the first six innings saw Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Torres emerge as the game’s initial stars.
The eighth-hitting left fielder and leadoff-batting second baseman were all over the Yankees’ 5-1 lead, starting with Kiner-Falefa’s third-inning triple. Torres clobbered a two-run homer to left-center field to draw first blood and put New York ahead 2-0, and Kiner-Falefa delivered a game-breaking two-run blast of his own to left in the fifth that padded the Yankees’ 4-1 lead.
Two batters later, Torres sent a solo shot down the left-field line for his second of the night and ninth on the season that put New York in command of a 5-1 cushion entering the sixth inning.
4. The Orioles (32-17) snapped the Yankees’ five-game winning streak as New York (30-21) slides back to three games behind Baltimore for second place in the AL East. The Tampa Bay Rays, who improved to 36-15 with Wednesday’s 7-3 win over the Blue Jays (26-24), are now six games ahead of the Yankees.
The rubber match for this week’s three-game series between the Yankees and Orioles is set for Thursday.
New York’s Clarke Schmidt (2-4, 6.00 ERA) and Baltimore’s Kyle Gibson (5-3, 4.27 ERA), both right-handers, are the probable pitchers for the 7:05 p.m. start at Yankee Stadium.