The New York Yankees defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 7-2 on Thursday night (box score), extending their lead in the American League East to 5 ½ games. 

The Yankees were led by left-handed starter Nestor Cortes, who entered the ninth inning with a chance to throw the seventh complete game of Major League Baseball's regular season (as well as the second against the Rays). Cortes came up short in that pursuit, but he nevertheless ended the evening with a line that included eight, one-run innings over which he surrendered four hits and one walk. He punched out five batters.

Cortes, 27, had amassed a 1.80 ERA (206 ERA+) and a 5.09 strikeout-to-walk ratio over his first eight starts. Thursday's performance lowers his seasonal ERA to 1.70.

The Yankees were paced offensively by leadoff hitter Aaron Judge. He drove in a pair of runs, including the first of the game in the sixth inning. Judge later extended the Yankees' lead to 5-0 in the ninth with a sacrifice fly.

The Rays were able to rally for a pair of runs in the ninth inning. Wander Franco chased Cortes with a leadoff single. Franco subsequently scored on a Manuel Margot infield single several batters later. Harold Ramirez, who welcomed reliever Wandy Peralta to the game with a single of his own, would cross the plate on a fielder's choice courtesy of Isaac Paredes.

The Yankees and Rays will play three more games in this series, giving New York a grand opportunity to extend their division lead and the Rays a chance to reduce the gap. 

The Yankees' win capped off a busy Thursday for them overall. Earlier in the day, New York signed infielder Matt Carpenter to a big-league contract and reliever Shane Greene to a minor-league pact.