Cortes Struggles Early. Santana Hit Too. Volpe 3 Hits, 2 RBI. Tampa 7 NY 2

Nestor Cortes allowed 4 runs in 5 innings — the big hit a Randy Arozarena 3-run HR in the 3rd — and Dennis Santana — who has been brilliant out of the pen for NY — was ripped for 3 runs in the 7th, resulting in a 7-2 loss to the Rays on a late Saturday afternoon in Tampa.

The only good news was that Anthony Volpe got 3 hits and drove in both Yankee runs, raising his average back to .268 (.354 OBP). He continues red hot the last few games. And Austin Wells went 1-3 with a double raising his average back to .200 (.325 OBP). The Yanks’ only other hit was by Jon Berti.

“Just struggled with his fastball command, and really getting it to that top rail early on,” said manager Aaron Boone afterwards about Cortes. “I thought he kind of righted the ship and got it going a little bit in the middle of the game there. But early on it just seemed a hard time getting that fastball to the top rail that he does so well.”

NY falls to 26-15. Tampa improves to 20-20.

1. Volpe Put Yanks on Top Early

Zack Littell started for Tampa. He is no relation to Mark Littell. Zack actually spent time in the Yankee organization in A and AA ball — NY acquiring him from Seattle for a minor leaguer, then trading him to Minnesota for a minor leaguer. Littell played in the bigs with Minnesota for a few years as a reliever and spot starter. He then signed with San Francisco where he was used primarily as a reliever for 2 years. He bounced to Texas and Boston before being picked up on waivers last year by Tampa, which turned him into a back-of-rotation starter.

The 6’4 righty is now 28 years old. He allows more hits than innings pitched and is the kind of pitcher the vaunted Yankee lineup normally hits hard but not on this afternoon.

He pitched into the 6th allowing only 2 runs — those runs coming in the bottom of the 2nd when Anthony Rizzo walked with 1 out, Austin Wells ripped a double to right, Trent Grisham walked with 2 outs to load the bases, and Anthony Volpe singled in 2. Grisham made a mental mistake and got caught in a run-down on the bases as Yankee Twitter howled.

2. Cortes Struggled Early

Meanwhile, Nestor Cortes allowed a leadoff homer to Yandy Diaz on the first pitch of the ballgame to Tampa. He then walked the next batter, but got a double play, worked around a 1-out walk in the 2nd, and in the 3rd allowed a leadoff walk, double, and homerun to Arozarena and it was 4-2 Tampa.

After that Cortes settled down — retiring 8 in a row — pitching a 1-2-3 inning in the 5th and 6th.

In the 6th however, he allowed a leadoff double before striking out Hanley Ramirez and leaving at 89 pitches.

3. Santana Good at 1st, then Hit

Dennis Santana came in with runner on 2nd and 1 out — and got the Yanks and Cortes out of further damage — getting a groundout and strikeout to retire the side, and keep it 4-2 Tampa after 6 innings.

But in the 7th, Santana walked Ben Rortvedt leading off, and with 1 out allowed consecutive RBI doubles to Yandy Diaz and Randy Arozarena and it was 6-2 Tampa.

4. Hamilton & Tonkin Mop Up

Ian Hamilton retired the last 2 batters of the 7th, allowing a sac fly for a 7-2 game.

Michael Tonkin pitched a shutout 8th.

5. Tampa Pen Stifles Yanks

The Tampa pen of Garrett Cleavinger, Jason Adam, Phil Maton, and Pete Fairbanks stiffled NY — pitching 3.1 shutout innings and allowing only 1 hit.

With Tampa up 7-2, Fairbanks pitched a 1-2-3 inning in the 9th — lineout, strikeout, groundout — for the old ballgame.

The Boxscore

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