BOSTON — The Yankees are starting to look like Secretariat in the Belmont Stakes.
Even on a night when Nestor Cortes came up with his roughest start of the season, the Yankees used their offense and bullpen to further cement their place as the best team in the division — as well as in the majors — in a 12-5 win over the Red Sox.
In front of a raucous sellout crowd of 36,841 at Fenway Park, the Yankees got a three-run homer from Josh Donaldson — who has gone deep in three straight games — and more solid work out of their bullpen to send Boston to its fourth consecutive loss.
The Yankees have built a season-high 15 ½-game lead in the AL East with their 61-23 start, thanks in part to a 28-12 record in the division.
“We’ve got a long way to go, but I love [that] we built up this lead,” manager Aaron Boone said. “We’ve made a lot of deposits. Inevitably, we’ve got to make some withdrawals along the way.”
When that will happen is anyone’s guess.
“We’re incredible,” Giancarlo Stanton said. “We find ways to win, nonstop. We stay hungry. It doesn’t matter how far ahead we are or obstacles in front of us, we keep pushing. We’re gonna go into the second half and do the same.”
Cortes lasted a season-low 3 ²/₃ innings, while allowing four runs on eight hits to bring his ERA up to 2.74.
But the Yankees hardly felt it, as they got to Boston right-hander Connor Seabold quickly.
DJ LeMahieu led off the game with a single and moved to second on a rocket grounder to third by Aaron Judge that was snared by a diving Rafael Devers.
Matt Carpenter was hit by a pitch and Gleyber Torres followed with a run-scoring single.
Donaldson, who hit a grand slam in Thursday’s win, delivered a three-run shot to left to give the Yankees a 4-0 lead. He has now homered in three straight games for the first time since last year.
Cortes gave up a two-run double to Christian Vazquez in the bottom of the first, cutting the Yankees’ lead to 4-2.
An RBI double by Carpenter drove home LeMahieu in the second.
The Yankees added to their lead in the third — with some help from Christian Arroyo in right field.
With runners on second and third and two out, the slumping Joey Gallo lofted a fly ball to right, but Arroyo lost it in the dusk or the lights and ended up nowhere near where it landed. That allowed Aaron Hicks and Jose Trevino to score, but Gallo was thrown out at the plate trying for an inside-the-park home run.
Seabold left with right forearm tightness, but the Yankees continued to pour it on in the fourth against Michael Feliz, as Carpenter led off with a homer, his ninth of the season.
But Cortes’ struggles continued in the bottom of the inning. Trevor Story and Bobby Dalbec hit homers and the left-hander was pulled with two on and two out.
Miguel Castro came on to face Xander Bogaerts and hit him with a 2-2 pitch to load the bases for Vazquez. Castro got to a full count against Vazquez before striking him out to end the inning.
Albert Abreu, who had not been scored upon in five appearances since rejoining the Yankees last month, gave up a run in the sixth and left with runners on the corners and two outs. Lucas Luetge entered to face Alex Verdugo and walked him to load the bases. Facing Story, Luetge got the second baseman to pop to second and he subsequently tossed 3 ¹/₃ scoreless innings to finish the game.
The Red Sox were further embarrassed by putting Jackie Bradley Jr. on the mound in the ninth. He walked Isiah Kiner-Falefa with the bases loaded to force in a run.
The Yankees will look to clinch another series win on Saturday.
“We’re not really thinking about that,’’ Carpenter said of the AL East race. “We really do a good job of coming here every day, putting on the gas and getting back to work … and not getting lost in the standings.”