Yankees’ Nestor Cortes admits to flaws exposed in Blue Jays matchup

New York Yankees pitcher Nestor Cortes (65) works against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning of a baseball game in Toronto, Saturday, June 29, 2024.
Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP

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New York Yankees pitcher Nestor Cortes had a tough outing on Saturday against the Toronto Blue Jays, managing only 4.1 innings while allowing seven hits and three earned runs with five strikeouts. The Blue Jays overpowered the Yankees 9-3 in the third game of their four-game series, handing New York its 10th loss in 13 games.

After the game, Nestor Cortes candidly assessed his performance, admitting to missing many pitches and locations from the start, despite feeling some pitches were well-executed. He acknowledged the Blue Jays’ offensive strength but emphasized the need to improve his first-inning performance to create more pressure on opposing batters.

“It just felt like, from the beginning, just missed a lot of pitches, a lot of locations. And they put a lot of good swings on balls that I thought were pretty well-located. Just overall, I mean, they’re swinging hot bats right now, but I’ve got to do a better job of coming out in the first [inning] and putting pressure.”

Nestor Cortes’ on-road problem continues

The Yankees pitcher conceded three early runs before being pulled in the fifth inning. Nestor Cortes surrendered a two-run homer to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the first inning and an RBI double to Alejandro Kirk in the fourth. His struggles on the mound underscored the Yankees’ ongoing difficulties in maintaining their competitive edge in the fiercely contested AL East race.

His performance marked a downturn for Nestor Cortes, who had previously delivered three quality starts. It was also his second June outing where he failed to complete five innings. His season stats now include a 3.51 ERA, a 1.10 WHIP, and a 98:19 K:BB ratio over 105 innings.

Nestor Cortes’ struggles on the road continued, leaving him winless away from Yankee Stadium this season with a 0-4 record and a 5.63 ERA in nine starts. In contrast, he boasts a 4-3 record and a 1.84 ERA in nine home starts.

Nestor Cortes didn’t have his best stuff on Saturday afternoon.
USA Today

Reflecting on his performance, Nestor Cortes identified early damage control as a key area for improvement. He emphasized the importance of containing opposing offenses in the first three innings to increase their chances of winning games and better support the pitching staff.

“It’s been early damage and trying to contain the offense that we’re facing,” the Yankees star said. “I think once we do that and contain them a little bit in the first three innings, we’ll have a better shot at winning games and being better for our pitching staff.”

Yankees bullpen emerges big concern

In Saturday’s matchup against the Toronto Blue Jays, the New York Yankees‘ struggles continued after manager Aaron Boone pulled starter Nestor Cortes Jr. with the team trailing 3-1. The situation quickly worsened as the Yankees’ bullpen allowed five runs in the sixth inning, enabling the Blue Jays to secure a dominant 8-1 lead.

Phil Bickford, who began the sixth inning for the Yankees, was immediately under pressure. He gave up hits to George Springer and Daulton Varsho, with Alejandro Kirk driving in Springer. After two outs, Bickford walked Bo Bichette and then surrendered a run-scoring single to Isiah-Kiner Falefa.

Boone then called on Caleb Ferguson, but Guerrero Jr. delivered a bases-clearing double, pushing Toronto’s lead to 8-1. Guerrero later added another RBI in the eighth inning, bringing his total to six for the game.

Even closer Clay Holmes struggled, giving up a run in the late stages, underscoring the bullpen’s ongoing issues as the trade deadline approaches.

On the mound for the Blue Jays, starter Chris Bassitt shut down the Yankees’ lineup, pitching six scoreless innings to earn the win.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. celebrates a three-run double in a win over the Yankees.

Aaron Judge provided a bright spot, driving in the Yankees’ first run with an RBI single in the fifth, marking his MLB-leading 80th RBI of the season. However, the rest of the lineup struggled, managing only six hits and failing to capitalize with runners in scoring position, stranding six baserunners.

The team’s offensive woes were compounded by baserunning mistakes. Ben Rice was caught stealing third in the first inning, marking the fourth time in five games that the Yankees squandered early opportunities. In the sixth, Gleyber Torres was thrown out attempting to steal second during Austin Wells’ strikeout, resulting in a double play.

Austin Wells hit a two-run homer in the ninth, but it was too late to change the outcome, which puts the Yankees at 3-10 in their last 13 games.

If they fail to win Sunday’s series finale against the Blue Jays, it will mark their fifth consecutive series loss, further highlighting the team’s recent struggles and the urgency to address their performance issues.

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