New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge strikes out swinging to end...

New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge strikes out swinging to end the sixth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays in an MLB baseball game at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, April 20, 2024. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

They came to Yankee Stadium to say goodbye to John Sterling, and they came because the Yankees were giving out an Aaron Judge bobblehead. But most in the sellout crowd of 47,629 also came to see a Yankees win.

That’s probably why Judge heard boos after he struck out for the fourth straight time in the ninth inning of a scoreless game.

And that’s why the majority of the crowd went home disappointed after the Rays beat the Yankees, 2-0, in 10 innings.

Tampa Bay snapped a scoreless tie on Jose Caballero’s leadoff RBI double off Caleb Ferguson in the 10th. Former Yankee Ben Rortvedt added a one-out RBI single.

The Yankees (14-7) did not score in the 10th despite the gift of the ghost runner and were shut out for the third time this season.

The stage was set for a dramatic Yankees walk-off win in the ninth with Juan Soto leading off, and he  tried to oblige. He hit a high fly ball to left that was caught by Randy Arozarena in the middle of the warning track.

Judge followed by waving at a slider from Jason Adam for the second out. Cue the boos.

“I’ve heard worse,” Judge said, “and I probably would do the same thing in their situation.”

Said manager Aaron Boone: “It’s the Bronx. He’s beloved. Those will turn real quick.”

Anthony Rizzo was next, and he got the crowd on its feet with a cloud-scraping drive to the rightfield corner. Rizzo stood at the plate and watched it, only to see the ball settle into Amed Rosario’s glove on the warning track for the third out.

Nasty Nestor was back in full force as Nestor Cortes struck out nine in seven  innings for the Yankees. The lefthander allowed six scattered singles and walked none.

And he did it without any chicanery.

What do we mean? In his last outing, Cortes unveiled a “pump-fake” pitch against the Guardians in which he started his windup, paused, pretended to throw the ball home, and then re-wound up and fired the pitch. The odd offering was fouled off by Cleveland’s Andres Gimenez.

It was the first and last time Cortes threw the pitch. Even though it wasn’t called as such on the field, Cortes  later was informed by Major League Baseball that the maneuver was illegal and would result in a ball being called if he tried it again.

Boone agrees with MLB.

“I feel like we should all be able to say, ‘Yeah, you probably can’t do that,’ “ he said.

Cortes didn’t need any trickeration on Saturday. He allowed two singles in each of the third, fifth and sixth innings and worked out of each jam (with a little help from the Rays on the first one).

With two outs in the third, Jose Siri singled off Cortes’ glove and became  the Rays’ first baserunner. When Yandy Diaz followed with a bloop single to center,  Siri inexplicably tried to make it to third and was thrown out by Trent Grisham to end the inning.

Cortes struck out the side in the fourth. In the fifth, the Rays had runners on second and third with one out in a scoreless game, and the Yankees brought the infield in. They could have taken all of their fielders off the field because Cortes struck out Siri and Rene Pinto to end the threat.

In the sixth — still 0-0 — the Rays had runners on first and second with one out. Cortes got cleanup hitter Isaac Paredes to fly out to left and retired Rosario on a grounder to second.

Cortes finished his outing with a flourish. He fired a two-out, 2-and-2 pitch practically down the middle to Siri, who took it. Cortes and catcher Austin Wells started for the dugout, but plate umpire Jonathan Parra called it a ball.

On the next pitch, Siri hit a fly ball that Alex Verdugo caught on the warning track in left. Cortes, his day done after 102 pitches but his fire not yet out, barked at Parra as he walked off the mound.

The Yankees, meanwhile, were held to three hits in the first six innings by Zach Eflin. Soto had two of them — big shock — with a line single to right in the first and a scorched ground-rule double that one-hopped the wall in the rightfield corner in the sixth.

But Judge struck out after each of Soto’s at-bats. And heard about it.

“It’s always disappointing,” Cortes said. “Not only to him, but to everybody else. Feel like he’s done a lot for this team, a lot for this organization. He’s going to come around. It’s just a matter of time.”

Judge, who is batting .179 with three home runs and a .682 OPS, said the abdominal injury that slowed him in spring training is not a factor in his struggles.

“It’s a long season,” he said. “I’ve had seasons where I started off worse than this in my career, and I’ve had seasons when I’ve started hot.”

Also not starting hot for the Yankees: Gleyber Torres (.195), who didn’t start and grounded out as a pinch hitter in the 10th; Austin Wells, who went 0-for-2 with a walk and is batting .091, and  Grisham and Jahmai Jones, who both started on Saturday and are still looking for their first hits of 2014. Grisham is 0-for-12. Jones, who started for Torres at second base, is 0-for-4.

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