ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Isaac Paredes did in the Yankees Tuesday night.
The 23-year-old, in fairness a highly regarded utility infielder acquired by the Rays in early April from the Tigers for Austin Meadows, came into Tuesday night hitting .181 with five homers and a .640 OPS in 30 games.
Tuesday night he became the first Rays player in franchise history to hit three homers over the first five innings of a game — two of them coming off Nestor Cortes — helping send the Yankees to a 5-4 loss in front of 20,688 at Tropicana Field.
“I was missing over the plate a lot, didn’t make enough good pitches to get them out,” Cortes said. The Yankees starter allowed a career-high three homers overall — after giving up six total over his first 12 starts of the season — in allowing four runs, matching a season-worst, and six hits over 4 1⁄3 innings.
Paredes, who had seven career homers in 87 games coming into the night, had three in his first three at-bats, the final of which came in the fifth when he jumped on a first-pitch, 95-mph, middle-of-the-plate Clarke Schmidt fastball and smacked it out to left for a two-run shot that made it 5-2.
The Yankees did make it interesting in the ninth off lefty Colin Poche, the Rays’ seventh pitcher of the game. Marwin Gonzalez hit a two-out, two-run homer to make it 5-4, bringing Aaron Judge, who had the night off, up as a pinch hitter. Swinging at a first-pitch 94-mph fastball, Judge, breaking his bat, flied to the track in left to end it.
“We heard the sound [of the bat breaking] but when we saw the ball flying, we were expecting it to go,” Gonzalez said. “He has crazy power. [Anybody] else hits the ball like that, it’s going to be a blooper over shortstop.”
Said Rays manager Kevin Cash: “You don’t want to see it get as close as it did, but felt when the ball left the bat, you could hear that the bat cracked. But you never doubt that man’s strength, so yeah, I am [relieved].”
The first two Paredes homers came off Cortes, who came in 6-2 with a 1.94 ERA, but Tuesday made it two of his last three starts in which the lefthander wasn’t sharp, especially with his cutter.
Facing the Rays a third time in a month didn’t help either (Cortes also faced them June 8 and last Wednesday).
“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,” Cortes said of the lack of success with his cutter. “But if they were better located I think I could have done the job.”
The Yankees, still with the best record in baseball by a long shot at 50-18 and having not lost two in a row since May 28-29 here in St. Petersburg, slipped to 3-2 on this six-game trip that comes to an end Wednesday night. “It’s a focused group and they’ll come in with an edge tomorrow, I’m sure, ready to try and win a series,” Aaron Boone said. “We’ll kind of flush this one with that in mind.”
The Yankees were outhit 8-4 by the Rays (37-31), whose first six pitchers mostly shut down the Yankees.
After the Yankees stranded two in the first — Anthony Rizzo and Giancarlo Stanton walked with two outs against Jalen Beeks, but Gleyber Torres struck out looking — the Rays showed they were on Cortes early. They got back-to-back one-out homers from Paredes, who broke up Gerrit Cole’s no-hit bid in the eighth inning Monday, and Harold Ramirez, both blasts coming on cutters.
The Rays retook the lead in the third when Paredes struck again, blasting a 2-and-2 curveball to left, his seventh homer making it 3-2. “He just put three good swings, two good swings on me,” Cortes said. “It was his day.”