Nestor Cortes unbecomes nasty, costs Yankees dearly in 7-2 loss to Rays

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Nestor Cortes, the Yankees’ star pitcher, encountered an unexpected hurdle during his Saturday outing against the Tampa Bay Rays. He struggled to find his usual command over his four-seam fastball for the first three innings, a crucial element of his pitching repertoire. This lack of control proved costly, as the Rays capitalized on Nestor Cortes’ misplaced fastballs, launching them over the fence for home runs and building a substantial lead.

He ended up 5.1 IP, 5 H (2 HR), 4 ER, 3 BB, 5 Ks, 89 pitches, and 4.02 ERA.

Nestor Cortes, known for his crafty pitching style, found himself in uncharted territory without the reliability of his fastball. He admitted that whenever he attempted to locate the pitch within the strike zone, it was met with solid contact from the Rays’ batters. The absence of his fastball early in the game had a ripple effect, rendering it less effective even when he turned to it later on.

“It’s tough to pitch in this league without a fastball, that’s for sure,” Nestor Cortes conceded after the game that saw him allowing four runs in 5 ¹/₃ innings in the 7-2 loss. “I felt like every time I would try to throw a fastball in the zone, it was getting hit. I think I wasn’t able to establish it early. That’s why when I would go back to it again, it was getting hit hard.”

Cortes struggled against the Rays bats. 4 Nestor Cortes struggled with the Rays hitters and his fastball.

Nestor Cortes’ early difficulties spell Yankees’ doom

Rays’ Yandy Diaz and Randy Arozarena did significant damage to Yankees’ starter Nestor Cortes. Entering the game, the Rays’ first baseman boasted a .370 batting average and a 1.097 OPS against the Yankees’ lefty. Diaz wasted no time, crushing the first pitch he saw from the pitcher for a home run.

Nestor Cortes’ command issues persisted throughout the early innings, as he issued a pair of walks that didn’t immediately lead to runs. However, a leadoff walk to No. 9 hitter Jose Siri in the third inning proved costly. Diaz followed with a double off the base of the left-field wall, and Arozarena capitalized on a middle-middle fastball, launching a three-run homer to give the Rays a 4-2 lead.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone gave his assessment of Nestor Cortes’s outing, acknowledging the pitcher’s early difficulties in commanding his fastball and consistently hitting the top rail. Although Nestor Cortes had a rough start, Boone noted that he seemed to find his footing as the game went on, particularly in the middle innings. However, the manager noted the pitcher’s challenges in controlling his fastball during the initial frames.

“Just struggled with his fastball command and really getting it to that top rail early on,” the Yankees manager said. “I thought he righted the ship a little bit and got it going in the middle of the game. But just early on, he seemed to have a hard time getting that fastball to the top rail like he normally does so well. A lot of pitches that shot up there that were getting away from him a little bit.”

Nestor Cortes himself revealed that he made a mechanical adjustment to his delivery after the third inning, which allowed him to get more behind his fastball and settle into a groove. Unfortunately, by the time he found his rhythm, the damage had already been done.

Nestor Cortes has experienced contrasting fortunes at home and on the road this season, a pattern that was evident from the first pitch of his Saturday outing. Despite the stark home-road splits through his first nine starts, the Yankees’ left-handed starter claimed that the challenges he faces away from Yankee Stadium haven’t been a significant concern for him.

In his four starts in the Bronx this year, he has posted a 1-1 record with an impressive 1.59 ERA, allowing just five earned runs over 28 1/3 innings. However, his performances on the road have been less stellar, with an 0-3 record and a 6.75 ERA, surrendering 19 earned runs in 25 1/3 innings.

Nestor Cortes mentioned that he had not yet had the opportunity to analyze the specific play in question. He stressed the importance of adapting to pitching in different environments and maintaining his standard preparation routine, suggesting that he feels consistent irrespective of the venue.

Yankees skipper Aaron Boone pointed out that Nestor Cortes typically excels at locating his fastball at the top of the strike zone, but during the initial stages of the game, many of his pitches in that area were missing their intended targets.

Yankees' Nestor Cortes is pitching against the Rays at Tropicana Field on May 11, 2024.

“Early on, it just seemed like he had a hard time getting that fastball at the top rail [of the strike zone] like he normally does so well,” Boone said. “There were a lot of pitches that he shot up there that were getting away from him.”

Reflecting on his performance, Nestor Cortes acknowledged his struggles in locating pitches up and away, speculating that mechanical issues or inconsistencies in his delivery might have been the culprit. He mentioned making adjustments following the third inning, which enabled him to regain control and feel more confident in his fastball.

“Honestly, I haven’t even looked at it,” Nestor Cortes said. “I’ve just got to make the adjustment of being on the road and pitching. I feel the same; I prepare the same. I felt like I was missing up and away a lot. I think it’s a little bit with my mechanics, with my delivery. I was able to fix that after the third inning. I was able to dial in more, and I felt like I had more on my fastball.”

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