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Yankees’ Nestor Cortes throws in a gem reminiscent of 2022

Vaseline 1 month ago


Before his final act against the Guardians, Nestor Cortes felt close.

There were flashes — a mix of good and bad — of the southpaw rediscovering his 2022 All-Star success.

Eight shutout innings against the Marlins.

Nestor Cortes pitched a strong game against the Rays. Robert Sabo for NY Post

Strikeouts that were connected in other games as well, even the one against Cleveland on April 14, when he allowed four runs in four innings.

All he needed, Cortes thought, was one or two more appearances to “turn that corner.”

Because when that happened, trips like Saturday followed.

Cortes pitched seven shutout innings in the Yankees’ 2-0, 10-inning loss to the Rays at Yankee Stadium, a nine-strikeout masterpiece — in which he scattered six hits and walked none — that will only result in a no decision on its ledger for 2024.

But given Cortes’ injury-filled struggles last year and the inconsistencies in starting his current season, his fifth start could serve as a building block for a crucial part of the Yankees’ (14-7) rotation.

“Hopefully I can continue to do that today and get back to my old self as I was in 2022,” Cortes said.

Cortes’ nine strikeouts and 17 swing-and-misses marked his most in a game since recording 12 and 19, respectively, on Oct. 1, 2022, against the Orioles.

Nestor Cortes perhaps had his best start of the season on Saturday. Robert Sabo for NY Post

He couldn’t use the fake pitch revealed against the Guardians — MLB deemed that an illegal move, a verdict that manager Aaron Boone said didn’t surprise him — but relied on four-seamers, cutters, sweepers and changeups to keep the Rays alive. hitters off balance.

At one point he accelerated his excitement.

Another time, Cortes dropped his arm and threw a two-strike sidearm sweeper past Isaac Paredes in the fourth for his sixth punchout — capping a frame in which Tampa Bay didn’t put the ball in play.

And when Cortes got into a second and third jam with one out in the next frame, he used consecutive strikeouts to escape unscathed.

Cortes struckout nine in what became a no-decision. Robert Sabo for NY Post

“The fastball was really good,” Cortes said. “Really good areas. I felt like I was a little slow coming out of the dugout early in that (fifth) inning. I wasn’t really in charge, like I was the whole game.

And then, Cortes added, he found “another gear.”

It became difficult for Cortes to find that kind of rhythm last season. He had the 28 starts and 2.44 ERA from 2022 to build on.

Over time, he had developed into the type of pitcher who had “really, really funky moves on the mound,” Boone said.

But at that point, between a hamstring strain and a left rotator cuff strain, Cortes managed just twelve starts.

The question of whether Cortes could replicate his career-best campaign remained unanswered and was carried over to 2024.

But after his 26 plate appearances against the Rays, Cortes felt he was finally “in a good place.”

“(Saturday) was impressive,” Aaron Judge said. “He worked on the corners. All his pitches worked.”

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