Nestor Cortes’ ‘little extra power’ adds big in Yankees’ rout of Mariners

Yankees' Nestor Cortes pitches five score-less innings against the Mariners at Yankee Stadium on May 22, 2024.

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Again it was the familiar surroundings of Yankee Stadium for Nestor Cortes, who dominated the Seattle Mariners with his fastball and cutter in the 7-3 victory on Wednesday night.

His performance was so overwhelming for the opponents that Yankees manager Aaron Boone specifically noted the extra power behind his fastball. Boone acknowledged that Nestor Cortes set the tone for the team with his impressive outing marked by really good stuff.

“He had really good stuff tonight,” the Yankees skipper said about the southpaw. “He had a little extra power. The fastball was fuzzy tonight, and the cutter, everything was uptick. … Set the tone for us tonight.”

Nestor Cortes checkmates Mariners, let Yankees thrive

Nestor Cortes, who tossed five scoreless innings while allowing just three hits and three walks and striking out six, revealed after the game that he felt he was throwing his fastball and cutter harder than ever before.

The only blemish on Nestor Cortes’ night was his high pitch count, as he had thrown 74 pitches through three innings. However, he managed to find quick outs in the fourth and fifth innings before being replaced by Tommy Kahnle to start the sixth, having thrown a total of 97 pitches.

Yankees' Nestor Cortes pitches five score-less innings against the Mariners at Yankee Stadium on May 22, 2024.

“To be able to get to the fifth [inning] for us and hand it off to the bullpen, that was huge,” Aaron Judge commented on Nestor Cortes’ pitch count. “Especially having 70-plus pitches in the first three [innings], that’s usually tough to come back from.”

The game continued Nestor Cortes’ remarkable home and away splits this season. With his performance on Wednesday, he has now given up just five earned runs in six starts and 40 ¹/₃ innings pitched at Yankee Stadium, lowering his home ERA to an impressive 1.11. Moreover, Nestor Cortes has struck out 41 batters while walking only five when pitching in the Bronx.

The stark contrast between Nestor Cortes’ performances at home and on the road has been a defining factor in the New York Yankees’ success this season.

Yankees' Nestor Cortes pitches six score-less innings against the Mariners at Yankee Stadium on May 22, 2024.

While Nestor Cortes has been nearly untouchable at Yankee Stadium, he has struggled mightily in away games. The left-hander owns a concerning 6.75 ERA on the road, surrendering 19 earned runs in five starts and 25 ¹/₃ innings pitched. His strikeout numbers have also taken a hit, with just 23 batters fanned away from home, accompanied by 10 walks. Opponents have posted an impressive .293/.359/.509 slash line with a .868 OPS against Nestor Cortes on the road.

The Yankees‘ record has been directly impacted by Nestor Cortes’ home and away splits, going 1-4 when he starts on the road and 4-2 when he takes the mound in the Bronx. With the team set to embark on a nine-game West Coast trip starting Friday in San Diego, his next two starts are likely to take place away from the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium.

Nestor Cortes attributed his success at home to the passionate fan base, stating that it’s special to pitch in front of the home crowd and feel their energy, especially when he’s close to securing a strikeout or receiving a standing ovation after a strong outing.

The southpaw’s dominant performance on Wednesday night has become a common occurrence for Yankees starters in recent weeks. The rotation has been relentless, allowing a mere seven earned runs in 62 ¹/₃ combined innings over their last 10 outings, resulting in an impressive 1.01 ERA, all without the services of ace Gerrit Cole.

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