BOSTON — The Yankees are starting to look like Secretariat in the Belmont Stakes.
Even on a night when Nestor Cortes had his toughest start to the season, the Yankees used their offense and bullpen to further cement their place as the best team in the division — as well as the majors — with a 12-5 win over the Reds sox
In front of a sell-out crowd of 36,841 at Fenway Park, the Yankees got a triple homer from Josh Donaldson — who’s gone deep in three straight games — and more solid work from their bullpen to lose Boston for a fourth straight game.
The Yankees started 61-23 for a season-best 15.5 games in the AL East, thanks in part to a 28-12 division record.
“We still have a long way to go, but I love it [that] We’ve built that lead,” said manager Aaron Boone. “We made a lot of deposits. Inevitably we have to make some withdrawals along the way.”
When that will happen is anyone’s guess.
“We’re incredible,” said Giancarlo Stanton. “We find ways to win, non-stop. We stay hungry. No matter how far ahead we are or obstacles ahead, we keep pushing. We’re going to go into the second half and do the same.
Cortes held a season-low 3 ²/₃ innings while allowing four eight-hit runs to take his ERA to a 2.74.
But the Yankees barely felt it as they quickly got to Boston right-hander Connor Seabold.
DJ LeMahieu led the game with a single and moved into second with a rocket bottom from Aaron Judge who was caught by a diving Rafael Devers.
Matt Carpenter was hit by a pitch and Gleyber Torres followed with a run-scoring single.
Donaldson, who scored a grand slam in Thursday’s win, delivered a three-run shot to the left to give the Yankees a 4-0 lead. He has now homed in three straight games for the first time since last year.
Cortes gave Christian Vazquez a two-barrel double at the end of the first double, cutting the Yankees’ lead to 4-2.
An RBI double by Carpenter drove LeMahieu home in the second.
The Yankees extended their lead in the third — with some help from Christian Arroyo in right field.
With the runners in second and third and two out, the collapsing Joey Gallo lofted a flyball to the right, but Arroyo lost it in the dusk or the lights, landing nowhere near where he had landed. That allowed Aaron Hicks and Jose Trevino to score, but Gallo was thrown to the plate while trying to hit a home run in the park.
Seabold went with a strained right forearm, but the Yankees continued it in the fourth against Michael Feliz when Carpenter led with a homer, his ninth of the season.
But Cortes’ struggles continued at the end of the inning. Trevor Story and Bobby Dalbec hit home runs and the left-hander was pulled with two ons and two outs.
Miguel Castro faced Xander Bogaerts and hit him with a 2-2 pitch to load the bases for Vazquez. Castro got a full count against Vazquez before hitting him to end the inning.
Albert Abreu, who hadn’t been hit in five games since returning to the Yankees last month, gave up a run in the sixth and left the team with runners in the corners and two outs. Lucas Luetge stepped in to face Alex Verdugo and accompanied him to load the bases. Looking to Story, Luetge brought the second baseman to second and then threw 3 ¹/₃ scoreless innings to end the game.
The Red Sox were further embarrassed by taking Jackie Bradley Jr. to the mound in the ninth. He went to Isiah Kiner-Falefa with the bases loaded to force a run.
The Yankees are aiming for another series win on Saturday.
“We don’t really think about it,” Carpenter said of the AL East race. “We’re doing a really good job of coming here every day, stepping on the gas and getting back to work… and not getting lost in the standings.”