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May 11, 2024 7:18 am

Yankees turn to Nestor Cortes in rematch vs. Rays

Nestor Cortes

The New York Yankees showed off their fine pitching and flexed just enough muscle to secure a series-opening victory against the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday night.

The Yankees will try to win the series on Saturday afternoon when they meet the Rays in the middle contest of their three-game set in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Starting pitcher Clarke Schmidt went 6 2/3 innings and combined with three relievers to shut out Tampa Bay.

Schmidt, a right-hander, made his 33rd consecutive start since 2023 of allowing three runs or less, tied for the most in the majors.

“He wants the ball,” New York manager Aaron Boone said of Schmidt, who pitched into the seventh inning for the first time this season. “He’s got a lot of confidence and is super competitive. He loves pitching, the fire and the action.”

Anthony Rizzo had an RBI single and a homer, his seventh of the season, as the Yankees improved to 7-2 in May and beat their American League East rival for the third time in four meetings.

The Yankees won Friday despite seeing Juan Soto, Aaron Judge and Alex Verdugo — their Nos. 2 through 4 hitters — go 0-for-10 with four strikeouts.

Tampa Bay received two hits and a walk from leadoff hitter Yandy Diaz. The Rays, however, made three outs on the bases, two via failed stolen-base attempts and one by pickoff.

Manager Kevin Cash was not upset with his group’s aggressive baserunning and said Schmidt was simply the story of the game.

“Unfortunately, Clarke Schmidt was really, really good — cutting it, sweeping it, working balls away from righties and in to lefties,” Cash said. “A lot of late movement. It felt like he was placing the ball where he needed to. The cutter/sweeping combination is a really good pitch.

“He’s gotten away from his fastball because those other two pitches are so good.”

A pair of one-game winners will square off Saturday.

Nestor Cortes (1-3, 3.72 ERA) will make his ninth start for the Yankees and will look to win for the first time since he shut down the Miami Marlins on April 8.

The left-hander has yielded at least three earned runs in five of his eight starts but is coming off one of his better outings. He allowed two runs on three hits and struck out nine in 6 1/3 innings in a no-decision against the Detroit Tigers on Sunday.

“I thought Nestor was really good,” Boone said after New York’s 5-2 win in a game shortened to eight innings because of rain. “Probably not his best fastball, but I thought he was really sharp.”

Cortes is 2-3 with a 3.95 ERA in 13 appearances (eight starts) against the Rays. Tampa Bay has hit just .229 against him.

Winless in his last six starts in 2024, right-hander Zack Littell (1-2, 3.00) will get the nod for the Rays on Saturday.

After three strong efforts to open the campaign, Littell is 0-2 with a 4.18 ERA over his past four outings.

Littell won his lone career encounter against the Yankees last Aug. 27. He allowed four runs on four hits in six innings.

–Field Level Media

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