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Yankees’ Nestor Cortes throws gem in start reminiscent of 2022

Before the last game against the Guardians, Nestor Cortes had a close encounter.

The left-handed pitcher’s moment of rediscovering All-Star success starting in 2022 was a mix of good and bad.

Eight shutout innings against the Marlins.

Nestor Cortez pitched well against the Rays. Robert Szabo of the New York Post

He continued to strike out in other games, including one against Cleveland on April 14, when he allowed four runs in four innings.

Cortés thought one or two more appearances would be enough to “turn the corner.”

Because when that happens, outings like Saturday’s continue.

Cortez pitched seven shutout innings in the 10th inning of the Yankees’ 2-0 loss to the Rays at Yankee Stadium. He was a nine-strikeout masterpiece – giving up six hits and giving no batters a walk in this game – but nothing has been determined about his 2024 bookkeeping, which will only result in consequences.

But given Cortez’s injury-riddled slog last year and shaky start to this season, his fifth start could be a vital part of the Yankees’ (14-7) rotation. It could be the basis.

“I hope I can continue to do that today and get back to my old self, like in 2022,” Cortez said.

Cortez’s nine strikeouts and 17 whiffs were the most in a game since Oct. 1, 2022, when he had 12 and 19 strikeouts, respectively, against the Orioles.

Nestor Cortes had arguably his best start of the season on Saturday. Robert Szabo of the New York Post

He couldn’t use the pump fake pitch he showed against the Guardians (MLB deemed it illegal, and manager Aaron Boone wasn’t surprised by the ruling), but he used four-seamer, cutter, sweeper, and changeup to protect the Rays. I relied on He throws the batter off balance.

He sped up his windup at one point.

Another time, Cortez dipped his arm and threw a two-strike sidearm sweeper past Isaac Paredes in the fourth for his sixth punchout, capping a frame in which Tampa Bay didn’t put the ball in play. .

Then, in the next frame, Cortez was in a pinch with one out and second and third base, and he got away unscathed with consecutive strikeouts.

Cortez had nine strikeouts in a game that went undecided. Robert Szabo of the New York Post

“The fastball was really good,” Cortez said. “It’s a really nice area. I felt that way early on. [fifth] Inning, he came out of the dugout a little slowly. He didn’t have much command, as he did throughout the game.

And, Cortes added, he found “another cog.”

Last season, Cortez struggled to find that kind of rhythm. He started 28 games starting in 2022 and posted a 2.44 ERA.

Over time, Boone said, he developed into the type of pitcher who made “really, really funky moves on the mound.”

But for now, between a hamstring injury and a torn left rotator cuff, Cortez has only made 12 starts.

The question of whether Cortez will be able to repeat the best campaign of his career remains unanswered, pushed to 2024.

But after 26 at-bats with the Rays, Cortez finally felt he was “in a good spot.”

“[Saturday] It was impressive,” Aaron Judge said. “He was working in the corner. All of his pitches were working.”

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