Nestor Cortes turns ace with 12 strikeouts against Baltimore

Nestor Cortes is readying for a pitch.

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NEW YORK — On the day that marked the 61st anniversary of Roger Maris’ 61st home run, the afternoon provided the ideal historical setting for a celebration to be held in honor of Aaron Judge. But while Judge was held out of the game on Saturday, Nestor Cortes stole the spotlight by holding Baltimore to just one hit over the course of 7 1/3 innings of magnificent pitching in the Yankees’ 8-0 victory at Yankee Stadium.

Nestor Cortes matched his career high for strikeouts with 12 thanks to the effectiveness of his slider, fastball, cutter, and creative thinking. The only hit that the Orioles were able to get off of Nasty Nestor came during the fifth inning. It was single by Jorge Mateo that went to left-center field with a line drive. A steady stream of batters from Baltimore made their way back to the visitor’s dugout.

Talking to reporters after the game, Nestor Cortes was happy over the way the game turned out. His focus was only on having “a good game to end the regular season on a good note.”

No one in the Orioles could stand him on Saturday afternoon. He almost puzzled everyone with a 94 mph fastball that struck out Ryan Mountcastle. After lifting his right leg, rocking forward, pointing his foot toward center field, and pausing for a moment, Nestor Cortes delivered really nasty pitch.

The Hialeah boy finished the 2022 season with a record of 12-4 and a 2.44 earned run average in 28 starts, which he marked as his final start of the regular season when he made that start. Nestor Cortes’ earned run average (ERA) is the third lowest in the starting history of the Yankees since the divisional era began in 1969.

Praising his star pitcher, Yankees manager Aaron Boone said:

“He’s been huge . Understandably, the fan base loves him. He loves wearing the pinstripes and playing here, pitching here and performing here. It was a pretty neat ovation that he received when he came off [the mound] to finish off what’s been a great regular season for him.”

Brandon Hyde, manager of the Orioles, added that his team “had nothing going with Cortes.” You have to give him credit. At this point in the game, he is pitching exceptionally well.

Not bad, considering Nestor Cortes called the Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake before coming to Spring Training and asked if he was “on the outside looking in” for a spot on the Opening Day roster. He made his first All-Star team this season, and he will be a key part of the Yankees’ playoff rotation.

Nestor Cortes had an immaculate inning against Baltimore earlier on April 16.

On Oct. 11, Game 1 of the American League Division Series is likely to be started by Gerrit Cole, but Cortes has been just as good, if not better, than Cole. Nestor Cortes’ 2.44 ERA is fifth in the AL, behind Justin Verlander (1.80), Dylan Cease (2.06), Alek Manoah (2.24), and Shohei Ohtani (2.35).

When asked about it, Boone said:

“We’ll see when that time comes. We’re still trying to finish the regular season, and we have to get ready for who we’ll play next. We should be moving on to other rounds. It doesn’t always work out, so we’ll talk about that.”

Roger Maris Jr., who was in Toronto earlier this week, made a prediction that Judge clip No. 62 would take place on Saturday. Exactly on this day in 1961, his father set the AL HR record. On October 1, 1961, Roger Maris hit a home run to the right-field seats at the original Yankee Stadium, setting a new record for the most home runs hit in a single season by surpassing Babe Ruth’s total of 60. Maris Jr.’s prediction was not fulfilled by Judge, so that mark continues to stand as the record for the American League and the Yankees.

Is Nestor Cortes a better pitcher than Cole to start the first ALDS game?

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