Yankees bats betray Nestor Cortes, hands him first Bronx loss since ’22

Yankees pitcher Nestor Cortes at Yankee Stadium on April 25, 2024.
Sara Molnick
Friday April 26, 2024

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The mound at Yankee Stadium boasted an assurance of victory for Nestor Cortes until Thursday when the Yankees offense let him down with a loss for the first time in 20 months. Despite a quality outing of three runs allowed over seven frames, the Yankees southpaw suffered his first Bronx defeat since August 16, 2022, versus Tampa Bay. Between then and this latest setback, Nestor Cortes had reeled off five consecutive home victories.

Nestor Cortes’ impressive outing on the mound for the New York Yankees was overshadowed by the team’s offensive struggles in their 3-1 loss to the Oakland Athletics on Thursday. However, his recent performances offer a glimpse of hope for a smoother future for the Yankees’ pitching rotation, even without Gerrit Cole.

The lefty continued his streak of strong outings, pitching at least seven innings for the second consecutive start and the third time in his last four. Nestor Cortes showcased impressive efficiency, allowing just five hits and three runs, all of which came from two crucial swings in the third inning.

Oakland’s Nick Allen capitalized on a fastball mistake by Nestor Cortes, launching a home run. Shortly after, Tyler Nevin took advantage of another fastball, blasting a two-run homer. 

“I thought we threw too many fastballs to Allen,” Nestor Cortes said. “With Nevin, he looked very bad in his first at-bat with the fastball in. I threw him a cutter prior to that home run pitch. He didn’t look very comfortable. If I go in there, we would probably get a different result.”

Despite these costly pitches, Nestor Cortes remained composed and cruised through the rest of the game. This is a significant improvement for the pitcher who battled through a challenging, injury-plagued season last year, culminating in a December shutdown due to a slow recovery in his shoulder.

Yankees' strating pitcher Nestor Cortes is pitching against the A's on April 25, 2024 at Yankee Stadium.
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However, six starts into the season, Nestor Cortes boasts a promising 3.50 ERA and, more importantly, a shoulder that seems to be recovering well. The Yankees star strictly, who adheres to his training regimen to ensure he maintains his pitching rhythm every five days, continues to be a reliable arm for the Yankees’ rotation with a complete recovery and satisfaction with his current command on the mound

Yankees pitching shines with Clay Holmes stepping up

Despite the absence of ace Gerrit Cole, the New York Yankees’ starting pitching has emerged as a bright spot this season. As of Thursday’s game, their collective ERA sits at a stellar 3.06, ranking them fourth-best in Major League Baseball. Even more impressive, Yankee starters have held opponents to three runs or less in a staggering 23 out of their 26 starts.

Manager Aaron Boone is understandably thrilled with his pitching staff’s performance. He commends their consistency in delivering quality starts, keeping the team in contention each night.

clay-holmes-new-york-yankees
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However, the Yankees already boast a reliable arm in closer Clay Holmes. With nine saves so far this season, he’s tied for the most in baseball. Remarkably, he maintains a perfect 0.00 ERA in 12 innings pitched, allowing only one walk. Since arriving via trade from the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2021, Holmes has displayed remarkable consistency, drawing praise from his manager.

This stellar performance comes at a crucial time for Holmes as he approaches free agency. His exceptional ground-ball rate (clocking in at an impressive 67.6%) is particularly valuable when pitching in the notoriously hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium.  

Boone lauded Holmes’ professionalism, emphasizing his ability to handle the pressures of being a closer in Major League Baseball.

Yankees bats let down Nestor Cortes and Holmes

Despite facing a pitcher in Alex Wood whose 7.89 ERA ranked second-highest among those with at least 20 innings, the Yankees couldn’t capitalize on scoring opportunities in a 3-1 loss to Oakland. The two clubs split the four-game series and won’t meet again until September’s three-game set in Oakland.

An Oakland player chases to tag Gleyber Torres as he tries to steal a base in the Yankees vs. A's game on April 25, 2024 at Yankee Stadium.
AP

The Yankees’ frustrations stemmed from a 1-for-7 performance with runners in scoring position against Wood and four relievers. The first inning encapsulated their struggles – bases loaded, no outs, yet Giancarlo Stanton struck out and Anthony Rizzo grounded into an inning-ending double play. Three frames later, another bases-loaded chance with one out fizzled as Jose Trevino bounced into a double play.

The Bronx Bombers’ offensive woes persisted in the fifth with runners at the corners and two outs, but Stanton hit into a forceout. Despite the Yankees’ numerous threats, Wood persevered for 5 2/3 innings, earning his first 2023 victory.

In positive news on the injury front, infielder Jon Berti is nearing a return from a left groin strain that has sidelined him since April 10th. Boone anticipates Berti could begin a rehab assignment as early as this Sunday. While Berti participated in batting practice and fielded ground balls before Thursday’s game, Boone emphasized the need for him to complete “a couple of heavy days” of workouts before being officially cleared for the rehab assignment.

Berti’s return will be a welcome addition for the Yankees. With DJ LeMahieu sidelined and Oswaldo Cabrera settling into the everyday third baseman role, the Yankees are currently shorthanded at both first and second base. Berti’s versatility will provide the team with much-needed flexibility in the infield.

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