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Nestor Cortes, Yankees bats struggle in 15-2 blowout loss to Rangers

ARLINGTON — A first-inning grand slam surrendered by Nestor Cortes on Sunday set the tone for an ugly afternoon by the Yankees, who dropped their third consecutive game to the Texas Rangers — this time in blowout fashion.

The bases-loaded blast by Josh Jung was one of three home runs given up by Cortes in the 15-2 loss in Arlington, and one of four slugged by the Rangers overall.

Cortes allowed seven runs in 4.2 innings, marking the first time in 18 starts that the left-hander gave up more than three earned runs in a game. He walked four, including two ahead of Jung’s homer.

“I wasn’t commanding the fastball well today,” Cortes said afterward. “That’s where I got into trouble in the first inning. ... When you don’t have your fastball and you can’t control both sides of the plate, it’s difficult to pitch.”

The Rangers blew the game open in the fifth inning with back-to-back home runs by Nathaniel Lowe and Adolis Garcia against Cortes. Texas continued racking up runs after Cortes came out, with Jonah Heim hitting the Rangers’ third homer of the inning against reliever Albert Abreu.

Jung also drew a bases-loaded walk during a six-run sixth inning, giving him five RBI for the game. The next batter, Heim, added a two-run double.

The Yankees only scored eight runs during the four-game series at Globe Life Field, during which they lost star slugger Aaron Judge to injury.

After being shut out Saturday, the embattled Yankees lineup showed early signs of life Sunday against 2022 All-Star pitcher Martin Perez with six hits through five innings. Anthony Volpe’s third-inning double past a diving Garcia in right field set up an RBI groundout by Oswald Peraza, giving the Yankees their first run in 15 innings.

From there, the Yankees failed to finish rallies. DJ LeMahieu was thrown out at home in the fourth inning after a would-be-RBI single by Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and New York didn’t score in the fifth after the first two batters reached.

“We’ve got to keep on preparing and competing, and realize we’re the ones that got to dig ourselves out of this a little bit,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “We did have some good at-bats today, but we’ve got to find a way when we’re missing some pieces and stuff to scratch out some runs. [It’s] tough when you fall behind like that to work yourself back.”

The Yankees opened the series with a 4-2 win Thursday, with ace Gerrit Cole improving to 5-0. New York’s bats then went cold, scoring two runs in Friday’s loss before being stifled Saturday in Nathan Eovaldi’s complete-game shutout.

They finished 2-5 on their road trip to Minnesota and Texas. Sunday’s loss dropped the Yankees’ season record to 15-14, tying them with Boston for last place in the American League East. They sit eight games behind division-leading Tampa Bay.

Judge started Thursday’s game but left during the fourth inning, a day after he slid awkwardly into third base against the Twins. An MRI revealed a mild strain to the top of Judge’s right hip, and he didn’t play during the rest of the Rangers series.

The Yankees hope to decide by Monday whether Judge requires a stint on the injured list. The reigning American League MVP is not expected to play in Monday’s home game against the Cleveland Guardians, according to Boone.

“He came in feeling a little better today, so I’m sure he’ll go through everything and we’ll evaluate where we are,” Boone said Sunday morning.

Lineup regulars Giancarlo Stanton, Josh Donaldson and Harrison Bader are also out for the Yankees, who have scored three or fewer runs in eight of their last 10 games.

The Yankees look to get back on track Monday with Domingo German set to pitch against Cleveland. The Guardians plan to start Cal Quantrill, who is 1-2 with a 5.40 ERA this season.