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Yankees 3, Mariners 4: Shaky seventh undoes strong start, clutch homers

Nestor Cortes deserved better.

New York Yankees v Seattle Mariners Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

Yesterday, Madison recapped the dumbest game of the year, and while today’s didn’t quite overtake that title, it’s certainly in the next tier of dumb games. The Yankees only scored in one inning, Nestor Cortes was brilliant but the lead was squandered by a guy who shouldn’t be on the roster, and the Yankees lost the game, and the series, with a 4-3 final score.

For a moment there, I thought Nestor Cortes was going to make some history. He didn’t give up a hit until the sixth inning, a solo shot off the bat of Sam Haggerty. There was no history to be made today for Cortes; he simply had to settle for being excellent, striking out ten against a single walk in six-plus innings.

Today was just everything we’ve come to expect from Cortes. He worked quickly, established the zone early — at one point starting seven straight hitters with an 0-1 count — and kept the Mariners off balance with a diversity of pitches and deliveries:

With Gerrit Cole, the Yankees have seen him blow up three or four times and been otherwise excellent, but there’s some fear when he takes the mound that you’re going to see that explosion. Nestor hasn’t really given us that feeling, even if on true talent I don’t particularly care who starts a must-win game, he’s been incredibly reliable, on top of the high ceiling he’s shown on the mound.

I was hoping for a no-hit bid, given that Nestor’s time in Seattle was probably the closest he came to hanging ‘em up. I’m sure he felt just a little bit special making his return to T-Mobile Park, and he put on a special performance.

It felt like all that work would be for naught, as the Yankees went six innings without a run, striking out seven times against Robbie Ray, although in true Ray fashion, he walked five men. Fortunately, Kyle Higashioka felt things needed to change after 19 consecutive scoreless frames since Tuesday:

This would have been a home run in just 14 ballparks, and would not have been out at Yankee Stadium. It must be nice for some teams to play in Little League ballparks with weird dimensions that benefit their team more than others. Isiah Kiner-Falefa had walked in the previous plate appearance, so to see those two combine to provide the first runs in 18 innings for this club was a surprise, but very welcome.

Two batters later, we got a slightly-less-surprising outcome:

Aaron Judge has 45 home runs. He is on pace for 65, four ahead of Roger Maris. I’m happy to be one of the first people to make the public case that there was a real chase for 62, and I’m equally happy that he’s proven me right so far. A lot of things can happen the rest of the season — maybe he gets hurt, or cools off, or teams continue to pitch around him the way they have the last week. Getting Anthony Rizzo and Giancarlo Stanton back, if they’re productive, should help with the last point (Rizzo was rusty today), but there’s still a good chance that Judge does eclipse 61 home runs. But for the rest of the season, as long as it’s possible, I have a feeling it’s going to be the biggest story of the baseball year.

After a whole bunch of goodwill built up in the top of the seventh, and the Yankees gave it all back in the bottom half. With a runner on first, Higgy whiffed on a center-cut fastball — that was called a ball — allowing an extra 90 feet for Ty France, that was needed as Mitch Haniger drove him in with a single. Nestor’s day was done, but Albert Abreu was no help:

It’s pretty typical in baseball for the guy with options, like say Ron Marinaccio, to lose out to the guy without options, like Abreu, when tough roster decisions have to be made (as John detailed yesterday). I understand that that is a rule of thumb, but I think the Yankees made the wrong call. Abreu has real stuff, but I haven’t felt great about him in high-leverage moments. With no Clay Holmes or Aroldis Chapman, your bullpen options are limited, and I’m just not sold on Abreu in high-leverage spots.

The Yankees went down pretty much without incident in the eighth and ninth, losing their third straight series. They’re in a funk, and like I said Sunday, they’re the only ones that can pull themselves out of that funk. Take the off-day tomorrow, figure out what’s not working, and when they take on the Red Sox Friday night, hopefully this is a much better looking ballclub. It’ll be Domingo Germán against Nathan Eovaldi with first pitch coming at 7:10pm ET.

Box Score