Yankees left-hander Nestor Cortes flirts with no strikers against Rangers thanks to nasty cutter

On Monday afternoon at Yankee Stadium, the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers played their third game at approximately 27 p.m. Two teams were knocked out on Friday and Saturday, and on Sunday they split in a duel. Monday was supposed to be a day off for both clubs, but they had to play a makeup game because the Rangers aren’t returning to New York this season.

The Yankees won Monday’s game 1-0 (boxing goals) thanks to Anthony Rizza’s RBI duo at the bottom of the eighth inning. Aaron Judge ran all the way home from first base to score the only series in the game. However, that was not the story of the game. It’s not even close. The story was that Yankees left-hander Nestor Cortes who didn’t score in the eighth inning.

A man named Nasty Nestor knocked out 11 Rangers before allowing Eli White’s clean single with no hits and a center bid with one in the eighth, ending Cortes ’afternoon. Cortes is the only baseball pitcher this season to have hit at least eight strikers, and he doesn’t allow more than one shot in multiple starts, according to Katie Sharp of Stathead.

“I wanted to let him go until he gave up. Unless he started walking a lot of guys and it got out of hand,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone told reporters, including The Athletic’s Lindsey Adler, after the match. It’s refreshing to hear considering everything recent discourse on tone counting. One pitcher chasing a non-hitter in late shifts is good old fun.

In addition to 11 strikeouts, Cortes allowed the Rangers to hit just two balls off the field all afternoon. Nick Solak innocently rushed to the center in the second inning, and then White stood out for the center in the eighth. In the season Cortes now owns a 1.41 ERA with 42 strikeouts in six starts and 32 innings. Simply put, he was one of the best throwers in baseball in 2022.

Cortes, 27 and a former 36th-round draft pick, has bounced from the Yankees to the Orioles back to the Yankees to the Mariners and back to the Yankees once again in the last five seasons. He’s a journeyman, though it’s no coincidence with six starts. He is a revelation since being called up from Triple-A last May, playing 93 innings with an ERA 2.90 in the 2021 swingman role.

A little extra speed and a redesigned slider helped Cortes take his game to the next level, as well as the cutter he picked up from former Premier League side Odrisamer Despaigne when the two were teammates in the 2018 Winter Ball. However, it wasn’t until this season that Cortes really started to accept the pitch. He set a career record for 51 cutters on Monday and the results were outstanding:

  • 12 misses on 30 strokes (40 percent, MLB average on cutters is 25 percent)
  • 84.3 mph average output speed allowed (MLB average on cutters is 88.0 mph)
  • 6 out of 11 strikeouts came on the cutters

The Rangers had difficulty making contact with Cortes ’cutter, and when they did make contact, they didn’t hit the ball hard at all. Cortes uses its cutter on both sides of the plate, up and down, and right-handers and left-handers. He is very confident on the field. Now he has something more behind his fast ball, and he also has an improved slider. Man does not lack weapons.

It would be wrong to call Cortes a savior because the Yankees have been very good this season. They entered the game on Monday in sixth place in baseball in the number of runs per game, the defense has improved, the fence is very deep and powerful, and four starters besides Cortes have an ERA of 3.00. It’s just a really good top-to-bottom baseball team.

Cortes is more of a pleasant surprise than a savior. It won’t hold a 1.41 ERA all season because no one does, but it looks like a reliably above-average starter, and getting an unexpected contribution like this is something that could lift the Yankees to the top of rival AL East. Cortes was at its best on Monday. And the rest of the time is pretty good.

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