Yankees’ resilience rises to the occasion amidst season’s bleakest moment

Yankees' Anthony Volpe leads the offense against the Orioles at Yankee Stadium on June 18, 2024.
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The Yankees demonstrated their supremacy against the American League’s top team, excelling in all facets of the game. Nestor Cortes delivered a stellar performance, pitching six scoreless innings to shut down the powerful Orioles lineup. Timely hitting in the early innings generated three runs, giving the pitching staff plenty of support.

The Yankees’ defense, considered the best in the majors, was rock solid, highlighted by Gleyber Torres’ outstanding fielding. This all-around effort reinforced the Yankees’ reputation as a formidable force in the American League.

The Yankees’ undermanned bullpen stepped up, securing a 4-2 victory over the Orioles in the series opener at a bustling Yankee Stadium. This win widened their lead in the AL East to 2 1/2 games, ensuring they’d maintain their divisional top spot after the three-game series.

This victory was amazing, especially considering the concerning background the day brought in for the Yankees. With club-house leader Anthony Rizzo already on the injured list, two more arms reported out of the lineup with injuries. The Yankees’ joy was tempered by concern for star outfielder Aaron Judge, who exited in the fourth inning after taking a 94 mph fastball to his left hand from Orioles pitcher Albert Suarez in the previous inning. The Yankees are optimistic that Tuesday’s pivotal win won’t exact a heavy toll and it proved true as scan results of the slugger give them a big relief.

A big relief for the Yankees

Initial X-rays and a CT scan of Aaron Judge’s left hand showed no fractures, although the Yankees’ leader acknowledged experiencing some swelling after being hit by a pitch in the third inning. Judge’s potential injury overshadowed the rest of the game, despite his remarkable performance this season, marking one of his standout years in recent baseball history.

Yankees Aaron Judge is in a pensive mood at dugout of Yankee stadium after hit by a pitch while playing against the Orioles on June 18, 2024

Yankees starter Nestor Cortes noted a shift in the stadium’s atmosphere after Judge’s departure, but he guided the team effectively on a night when their superstar wasn’t required. The Yankees, boasting a record of 51-24, commenced a six-game homestand with their 14th victory in 19 games, solidifying their position as the top team in the majors. Their crisp performance also marked the beginning of an eagerly awaited series against the resurgent Orioles.

Nestor Cortes delivered an outstanding performance against the Orioles (47-25), who came into the game as the highest-scoring team in baseball. The left-hander effectively scattered five hits and issued no walks over six solid innings, reducing his ERA to 3.36. Cortes’ increased velocity indicated he raised his game to match the caliber of the opposition.

When asked about his mindset for such a pivotal June game, Cortes played down its importance, noting that the Yankees currently lead the AL East and the Orioles were determined to defeat them. He mentioned that the Yankees took an early lead in the game. Cortes has notably excelled at home this season, boasting a remarkable 1.57 ERA in eight starts at Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees provided Nestor Cortes with a narrow one-run advantage in the second inning, which proved to be enough for the left-hander. Cortes excelled in pivotal moments, holding the Orioles to an 0-for-5 performance with runners in scoring position.

In the opening frame, he stranded two runners by retiring Gunnar Henderson and Anthony Santander consecutively. Cortes received a warm ovation in the sixth inning after delivering a 94.6 mph fastball, his second fastest of the game, high and inside to Henderson, who safely evaded the pitch.

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Cortes later clarified that his intent was not hostile, explaining that he aimed to assert control of the inside of the plate against Henderson. This tactic paid off as he induced a ground ball to the right side, where Gleyber Torres made a diving stop and threw to first for the out.

Despite losing Aaron Judge for the final five innings, the Yankees secured a victory through timely hitting despite tallying just six hits. Anthony Volpe‘s RBI single with two outs in the second inning, scoring Austin Wells, provided a lead that held firm. Two innings later, Giancarlo Stanton’s RBI single brought Judge across the plate, followed by Gleyber Torres’ sacrifice fly in the same frame for an additional run. DJ LeMahieu’s sacrifice fly in the fifth wrapped up the Yankees’ scoring. Clay Holmes was the lone Yankees pitcher to concede runs, giving up a two-run homer to Anthony Santander in the ninth, accounting for Baltimore’s only scores.

Judge voiced his frustration after being hit by Albert Suarez, who consistently pitched him high and inside. Alex Verdugo suggested that if a pitcher cannot consistently execute inside pitches, they should refrain from attempting them, hinting at possible retaliation in the future.

Despite the setback, the Yankees smoothly sailed to victory, with their manager acknowledging the excitement of the win while expressing concern for the team’s captain. The Yankees, though facing adversity, maintained their dominance throughout the contest.

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