Nestor Wins it for Yankees over Blue Jays

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The Yankees’ pitching staff combined to shut down Toronto offense

The offensive funk that plagued the Yankees especially over the past season reappeared in last night’s 3-0 loss to the Blue Jays. The Bombers came out firing tonight, but that was the pitching which really carried the team. The Yankees’ arms keep putting up zero after zero there until the score line read 4-0, New York, led by an outstanding 4.1 scoreless innings from 2021 hero Nestor Cortes.

We know it was slightly earlier, although after watching the Yankees’ string of misfortunes in the bottom of the first, one might be forgiven for thinking that this wasn’t their night. Aaron Judge destroyed a middle-middle 2-0 cutter to left after Josh Donaldson led off with an eight-pitch walk, and though mentioned second-worst fielding left fielder in MLB Lourdes Gurriel Jr. managed to make a leaping grab at the wall to rob extra bases. The game was concerning on two fronts: it was Judge’s second fly ball to hit the wall this season (no, I’m not worried), and that was yet another plus defensive performance from a Toronto defense that I was advised had shoddy glove-work.

Worse, it’s not even the most vexing play of the frame. Anthony Rizzo stepped to the plate and ripped a 1-2 pitch off the right-field wall. Donaldson, on the other hand, stopped and started several times around the bases until inexplicably running through a stop sign and being thrown out at the plate by 10 feet. Making outs at home, the Yankees’ mortal enemy from last season, reappeared for the very first time in 2022.

To their credit, the Yankees rebounded from an unimpressive first inning by continuing to make good contact off Yusei Kikuchi in his Toronto debut. After a Gleyber Torres strikeout, Aaron Hicks batted righty and led off with a line drive double to dead center. He remained on a 2-0 slider around the outside half of the plate, punching an opposite-field wall-scraper over the short porch to put the Yankees up 2-0.

Hicks’ right-handed swing appears to be far more balanced than his left, and the numbers back up this same eye test. Hicks was roughly twice as productive batting righty vs. lefty in his limited sample size last season, prompting some to wonder if he’d be better off abandoning the switch-hitting approach entirely. Regardless, it’s encouraging to see him find his power stroke, as the Yankees rely on their center fielder to be healthy and productive.

With even a little support from the Blue Jays defense, the Yankees extended their lead in the fourth. On a 1-0 pitch to Hicks, catcher Tyler Heineman attempted to throw behind the runner at first and then sailed his throw into the outfield, and LeMahieu and Torres both reached on one-out singles. LeMahieu scored from second after the ball rolled all the way into the corner. However, after Hicks walked, Kyle Higashioka grounded into an inning-ending double play, extending the Yankees’ lead to 3-0.

Cortes outdueled Toronto’s potent lineup for 4.1 innings, allowing three hits and no walks while striking out five.

In the bottom of the eighth, New York added a much-needed insurance run. Donaldson drew another eight-pitch walk and advanced to third on a Judge double down the left-field line, kind of beyond a diving Chapman. Following a strikeout by Rizzo, Giancarlo Stanton pounded a 116.2 mph liner to left for the hardest hit sac fly you’ll ever get to see. Torres struck out to end the game, but the Yankees went into the ninth with a 4-0 lead.

Aroldis Chapman approached in the ninth inning despite the fact that this was not a save circumstance, but it was a stress-free experience. He made the final out on such a beautiful diving snag by LeMahieu after striking out a pair.

After last night’s disappointing shutout loss, it was good to see the Yankees return the favor tonight. The bats did their part, and it was the pitching that really stood out.

They will look to go one up in the series tomorrow night with Gerrit Cole set to face José Berríos. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm EDT so be sure to join us in the game thread.

What do you think, leave a comment below?

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