By LARRY FLEISHER, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — Randy Arozarena hit a three-run homer off Nestor Cortes in the first inning and the Tampa Bay staff made it stand up, leading the Rays over the skidding New York Yankees 3-1 Tuesday night.
Starter Jeffrey Springs (5-3) and four relievers combined on a four-hitter, and the crowd of 41,083 at Yankee Stadium booed their AL East leaders at times.
The Yankees have lost 11 of 13 and are 8-17 since reaching the All-Star break at 64-28.
“Yeah, we’re all frustrated but you can’t let the frustration get in your way of preparing and go every night,” New York manager Aaron Boone said. “We got a few guys that are in a rut. We got to prepare and get ready and fight our way of it. It’s part of it and it’s no fun when you’re going through it, but that’s where we are right now.”
Tampa Bay got only four hits while winning its fourth straight and closing within nine games of the Yankees — New York’s smallest margin since also being nine ahead on June 15. The Rays trailed by 15 1/2 games after getting swept at Cincinnati July 8-10.
“Wins in this ballpark against this team, that can elevate you a little bit and make you feel that much better,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said.
New York lost its fifth straight series and was held to three runs or less for the seventh straight game.
“It’s better to have this happen now in August than the first week of playoffs or near the end of the year when you’re getting into the playoffs,” New York slugger Aaron Judge said.
New York avoided being blanked in three straight games for the first time since 2016 when Andrew Benintendi tripled in the fifth and scored on a fielding error by third baseman Yandy Díaz on a grounder by Miguel Andújar.
Some fans booed when Andújar struck out to end the seventh with Josh Donaldson on third, and there were more when Jose Trevino struck out to end the game.
Díaz and Issac Paredes started the game with singles. One out later, Arozarena gave the Rays a 3-0 lead by lifting a 1-1 fastball into the left field seats for his 16th homer. It was Arozarena’s fourth homer in six games after the right fielder went homerless in 16 straight games.
“I was looking for a pitch to connect on,” Arozarena said through a translator. “I was hoping to hit a home run, that’s kind of what I was looking for but I’m mostly just happy we got the victory.”
Cortes (9-4) allowed three runs and four hits in seven innings. He struck out three, walked none and retired 19 of his final 21 hitters.
“I think we’re going to turn it around soon,” Cortes said. “I don’t know when, but this team is capable of doing big things and obviously we showed it the first half.”
Springs got 10 outs on the ground and held New York to one run and two hits in five innings.
“It’s good to see,” Cash said. “Our pitching has been outstanding the last two games here.”
Pete Fairbanks pitched a perfect sixth, Brooks Raley got the first two outs of the seventh after Donaldson singled and Shawn Armstrong got the next three outs.
Jason Adam needed four pitches to retire Judge with a runner on to end the eighth.
Adam also fanned two in a perfect ninth for his seventh save.
Rays: SS Wander Franco (right hamate bone) went 0 for 2 as the designated hitter for Triple-A Durham. He was expected to play five innings but was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the fourth due to general soreness in the hand and could play again Wednesday
Yankees: INF DJ LeMahieu (right big toe) missed his third straight game. He is day-to-day but a decision on putting him on the injured list could come Wednesday or Thursday. … OF/DH Giancarlo Stanton (Achilles tendon) could begin a rehab assignment in the next few days. … RHP Clay Holmes, who last pitched Friday, said after the game he is dealing with some back tightness. … OF Harrison Bader (right foot plantar fasciitis) said he is hoping to find out soon if his walking boot can come off.
Tampa Bay RHP Corey Kluber (7-7, 4.40 ERA) opposes New York RHP Domingo Germán (1-2, 4.18) on Wednesday night.
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