Nestor Cortes reasserts his dominance of Orioles despite glove alteration accusation

Nestor Cortes is pitching in the Yankees vs. Orioles game, April 9, 2023. Umpire checking his gloves after alteration allegations.
John Allen
Monday April 10, 2023

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The Orioles must be kicking themselves for designating Nestor Cortes in 2018, exactly five years ago to the day. The Yankees’ pitcher came back to demolish them again on Sunday and took his dominance over Baltimore to a new level though that came with glove alteration allegations.

Nestor Cortes has better numbers against the Orioles than most other pitchers. As of Sunday afternoon’s game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Cortes had a career ERA of 1.06 against Baltimore. He had only given up four runs in 34 innings.

The Yankees’ left-handed starter, in his 19 2/3 innings against the O’s, had given up just one earned run and struck out 31 batters. Last season, he went on the road to Baltimore and pitched 11 scoreless innings with 19 strikeouts. This season, Nestor Cortes again overpowered the Orioles’ batting lineup.

Nestor Cortes picked up from where he left

On Sunday, the southpaw looked like picking up from where he left against the Orioles last season and shut them down for the first five innings. After Yankees manager Aaron Boone called for the bullpen with one out in the sixth, Albert Abreu gave up a two-run double on his first pitch. But Nestor Cortes still got the win and the point still stands.

Nestor Cortes playing against the Orioles, the team that let him go five years ago on April 10, 2018, reminded them of their folly.

“Feels like every time I’m here, I throw to my spots and I’m able to locate and use the field to my advantage,” Nestor Cortes told after the New York victory. “I felt like they hit two or three fly balls to left field that probably would have been homers anywhere else and the field played in”

Nestor Cortes has a point. On Sunday, several deep flyballs stayed in the yard. First baseman Ryan Mountcastle and outfielder Austin Hays both hit towering shots to left field that would have gone out of the yard if Baltimore hadn’t moved the left field fence back before last season. Even though the new dimensions were bigger, Aaron Judge‘s two home runs and Franchy Cordero’s home run couldn’t fit in them.

Nestor Cortes is pitching in the Yankees vs. Orioles game, April 9, 2023.

Not an act of revenge for Cortes

Nestor Cortes now has a 1.02 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 35 1/3 innings as a starting pitcher against Baltimore after the Yankees 5-3 win. This season, he is 1-0 with an ERA of 0.90 and has struck out eight batters in 10 innings.

But Nestor Cortes wasn’t going into this as a revenge game. Maybe his first and second appearances against Baltimore after they severed connections were a chance to show them what they were missing. For the southpaw established in the Yankees starting rotation, it’s simply another game versus another opponent.

“You try to do well against all of them,” Nestor Cortes said. “Luckily I’ve had good success against them so far.”

The unexpected adjustment

The Game 3 start also included an unexpected change. Home plate umpire Bill Miller called Nestor Cortes away in the early innings, telling him he needed to replace his glove, pointing to the white bold lettering that read “44” on the back of the leather.

Nestor Cortes went out to pitch in the first inning with his usual dark 44 Pro Gloves glove, which has a white “44” stitched on the back and bottom. But it doesn’t look like the color on his glove is part of the attack plan. His first inning was full of action. Nestor Cortes struck out Anthony Santander, who thought Cortes threw too fast, and then he walked toward the Yankees’ dugout.

Home-plate umpire On the way, Bill Miller stopped him and pointed at the “44.” Nestor Cortes was stunned. He’s been using that brand since he was 17 and has never had any problems. When he pitched against the Phillies last week, he had no trouble using the same mitt. Yet, he came out for the following inning after coloring over the logo with a black marker.

“I’ve been pitching with a white 44 forever, so the fact that he came over to me and said that it was a problem kind of pissed me off,” Cortes said. “Other than that, I didn’t have a big problem with it. It wasn’t a big issue.”

The only trouble Cortes had was in the fifth. Ryan Mountcastle and Adley Rutschman dared to disregard him. Later in the season, Cortes might still be able to pitch, even if there are two runners on base and only one out. Cortes had already thrown 92 pitches this early in the season, so Boone decided to pull the plug.

“We just weren’t going to go over 90 [pitches] with him,” Boone said. “I just felt like I had to get him, but I thought he was sharp, especially after the first inning. He was really strike one, strike two, ahead, dictating counts. They’re a tough lineup and they’re a good team. They made him work.”

Cortes didn’t ask why, but in the dugout, the Yankees used a Sharpie to make the patch darker. The lefty said he thought Miller was the one who had a problem with the glove, not the Orioles batters.

In the first-inning at-bat, Santander was bothered, Nestor Cortes said, because, “I came set before he was looking up.”

Nothing was called, and Nestor Cortes sneaked in a second strike, which made Santander complain to Miller. Cortes then struck him out to end the inning. This was the last time any Baltimore batter would see the white-numbered glove.

It didn’t really matter. Nestor Cortes pitched well for the first 5 ¹/₃ innings. He gave up two runs, but both scored after he was taken out of the game in the sixth. The batters for Baltimore took advantage of the Yankees’ bullpen, but they did not take advantage of Nestor Cortes’ glove.

“Felt like they were looking inside a lot,” Nestor Cortes said of the Orioles hitters, “but I was able to beat them.”

What do you think? Leave your comment below.

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