ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Aaron Judge made it close.
Pinch hitting for Joey Gallo with two out in the top of the ninth, Judge hit a fly ball to left to end the game, as the Yankees’ rally fell short in a 5-4 loss to Tampa Bay.
Gleyber Torres opened the inning with a walk and moved to second on a passed ball.
Aaron Hicks whiffed and Kyle Higashioka grounded out. With Judge in the on-deck circle, ready to pinch hit for Gallo, Marwin Gonzalez homered to left to get the Yankees within a run, but they got no closer.
Nestor Cortes was hit hard for the second time in his past three starts, as the left-hander allowed a season-high three homers in the loss at Tropicana Field.
It was the Yankees’ second loss in three games. They’ve still dropped just two of their last 12 games, and three of 20 in falling to 50-18 on the season.
Isaac Paredes — who hit three homers on the night — and Harold Ramirez went back-to-back off Cortes with one out in the bottom of the first.
The Yankees tied the game in the second.
Facing opener Jalen Beeks, they got a one-out single from Higashioka followed by a ground-rule double by Gonzalez.
With runners on second and third, Gallo struck out.
Shawn Armstrong was brought on to face the top of the lineup and DJ LeMahieu delivered a two-run single to center to tie the game.
But Cortes’ rough night continued in the third, as Paredes took him deep again to give the Rays a 3-2 lead.
The lefty had allowed just six homers in his 12 starts prior to Tuesday and was knocked out in the fifth after a one-out single by Yandy Diaz — and Paredes coming up again.
Clarke Schmidt entered and had the same fate as Cortes, with Paredes homering for the third time on the night to make it 5-2.
An array of Rays relievers quieted the Yankees lineup, as Tampa Bay used seven pitchers to win for just the second time in eight games as the Rays try to hold off the Red Sox to stay in third.
The Yankees threatened in the eighth, as LeMahieu and Josh Donaldson drew walks against Luke Raley before Anthony Rizzo popped out to left.
And the inning ended when Stanton smashed a hard grounder to the right of Taylor Walls that the shortstop was able to get to and turn into a double play.
Cortes is in the midst of his first rough patch of the season. The Twins got to him for four runs in 4 ¹/₃ innings on June 8 before he bounced back with a solid outing last Wednesday against the Rays in The Bronx.
But on Tuesday, he was smacked around — and not just the homers were hit hard.
Diaz smoked a liner to left in the third and a single in the fifth.
Cortes left with an ERA north of 2.00 for the first time this season (2.31) and the Yankees lost for just the second time in Cortes’ last eight outings.
Ron Marinaccio, the third Yankee pitcher of the night, hit Paredes with a pitch with two outs in the seventh, but it was an 83 mph changeup.