Yankees’ Nestor Cortes admits to having ‘extra edge’ when pitching in the Bronx

Yankees starter Nestor Cortes is pitching against the Tigers at Yankee Stadium on May 5, 2024.
Sara Molnick
Monday May 6, 2024

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On Sunday, rough weather posed a problem for Nestor Cortes, the Yankees’ starting pitcher, causing him to struggle for a strong grip on the ball. The rain-shortened victory on Sunday also pitted him for a pitching duel against Tarik Skubal, an early contender for the 2024 Cy Young Award.

Despite these challenges, Nestor Cortes managed to uphold his impressive record at Yankee Stadium beating Skubal and winning the game for the Yankees. He attributed this success to the ‘extra edge’ at home given to him by Yankee Stadium vibes.

Skubal, a left-handed pitcher for the Tigers, achieved a personal best with 12 strikeouts, yet the Yankees forced him to labor through his outing. Skubal exited after six robust innings, having thrown 96 pitches.

Nestor Cortes met the challenge head-on, maintaining his exceptional performance at home. Before this game, he had only allowed five earned runs across 28 ¹/₃ innings pitched at Yankee Stadium.

Throughout the initial six frames, Nestor Cortes held the upper hand against his left-handed counterpart. Heading into the top of the seventh, the Yankees led 2-0, courtesy of an Aaron Judge solo homer and an Oswaldo Cabrera RBI double.

Nestor Cortes amassed nine strikeouts over six dazzling innings, retiring 13 of the last 14 batters he faced. The lone Tiger to reach base during that stretch was cleanup hitter Riley Greene, who drew a walk in the fourth inning.

Manager Aaron Boone decided to send Nestor Cortes back out for the seventh inning but opted for a change when the lefty surrendered two hits. Ian Hamilton was summoned from the bullpen, and while he prevented any hard-hit balls, he couldn’t strand the runners inherited from Cortes.

Nestor Cortes dominant at home but struggles on the road

Nestor Cortes showcases a notable divergence in performance depending on the venue: struggling on the road but demonstrating mastery at home.

When away from Yankee Stadium, Nestor Cortes has faced challenges, surrendering more hits (26) than innings pitched (20), resulting in a high 6.75 ERA. Conversely, when pitching in the welcoming atmosphere of home, he consistently reaches the seventh inning in all four of his starts. During these appearances, the Yankees pitcher has only conceded 16 hits—just four of which were extra bases—and five earned runs across 28 ¹/₃ innings, displaying dominance.

The unorthodox and cunning left-handed pitcher expressed his fondness for taking the mound in front of the loyal Yankees supporters, especially after the team’s completion of a three-game sweep of the Tigers with a 5-2 victory in a rain-shortened, eight-inning game in The Bronx.

“I love pitching in front of the Yankees fans,” he admitted. “As far as I can remember in 2021, I love pitching here. When we have two strikes or there’s two outs, everybody gets involved — the fans, the guys upstairs with the noise — it just gives you that extra edge and that’s why I feel like it’s been working for me.”

Nestor Cortes recalled his enjoyment of pitching at that particular ballpark during the 2021 season. He noted the heightened engagement from everyone in attendance, including the fans in the upper decks, generating an electrifying atmosphere, especially with two strikes or two outs. The Yankees star suggested that this surge of energy provides him with an added boost, contributing to his success at home.

On Sunday, Nestor Cortes displayed exceptional dominance, holding the Tigers to just two base runners through the initial six innings while amassing a total of nine strikeouts. Though he faced some trouble in the seventh inning, managing just one out after allowing singles to Mark Canha and Jake Rogers. He ended up being charged with two earned runs when reliever Ian Hamilton couldn’t strand the inherited runners.

Despite this stumble, Nestor Cortes reduced his season ERA to 3.72, boasting an even more remarkable 1.58 mark at home. His opponent and Tigers ace Tarik Skubal conceded two earned runs over six innings of work.

Nestor Cortes made it clear that he wasn’t fixated on Skubal’s performance, despite the Tigers’ starter being recognized as one of the most promising young pitching talents in the game, entering the contest with an impressive 1.72 ERA.

Yankees starter Nestor Cortes is pitching against the Tigers amid rain at Yankee Stadium on May 5, 2024.
NYY

The Yankees‘ lefty emphasized that when he steps onto the mound, his focus is solely on his own performance and the team’s success. Nestor Cortes elaborated that he doesn’t see his pitching performance as a direct showdown with his counterpart on the opposing team. Instead, the Yankees star viewed it as a personal challenge to excel and push his own limits.

Nestor Cortes swore unwavering commitment to giving his team the best shot at securing a win, regardless of his position in the rotation. He made it clear that his goal was to limit the number of earned runs between one and three per outing, enabling the Yankees in the best position to come out on top.

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