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Nestor Cortes proving to be the real Yankees ace as playoffs near

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Yankees Nestor Cortes
New York Yankees pitcher Nestor Cortes throws during the first inning of the first baseball game of a doubleheader against the Los Angeles Angels.
AP Photo/Adam Hunger

Gerritt Cole may have been considered the Yankees ace on the mound going into the season, but it has become clear that the title belongs to Nestor Cortes more recently. 

The Yankees starting pitcher threw six innings of shutout ball on Sunday night in a rain-shortened 2-0 win over the Boston Red Sox. Cortes allowed just one hit during the affair, which was the fourth time he’s done so in a game he has pitched in five or more innings of.

Thar is the most of by any Yankees pitcher and lowered his ERA to 2.56, which is the lowest for a Yankees starter since 1985. It also puts him 11 innings shy of qualifying for the American League leader for lowest ERA. 

“It’s incredible. You know the Yankee history and all the great pitchers that ran through this building and the old Yankee Stadium, it’s an honor to be on that list. For me to pitch the way I pitch and try and compete the way I compete every single day I’m out there, I just try to give my team a chance to win that game. Whether I give up four and they score more than them. As long as I’m out there and I’m competing every five days that’s my goal every single time.” 

Cortes has gone far beyond his career high of innings pitched this season and exceeded 100 pitches on Sunday in the win. Cortes threw 101 in the rained-out game against Boston and has now logged 151 innings pitched this season. 

He had thrown a career-high 93.0 innings pitched last season for the Yankees. Cortes credited his time playing winter ball and going all year playing baseball as helping to prepare him for the number of innings he’s thrown this year. 

“I think the offseason workouts and the kind of workload we do behind the scenes and going every day with the trainers and strength coach, and taking care of our bodies has helped significantly for me. As of right now I feel fresh, I feel good,” Cortes said. “I’m good to go as far as they need me to go. Hopefully, I can be a factor for this team come October.” 

There’s no question that he will be a big factor for the Yankees in the playoffs. Cole has shown to be somewhat unreliable, especially of late. Frankie Montas is still working his way back from an injury and on Sunday Yankees manager Aaron Boone said it would be hard to get him another start before the end of the year and he would more likely be used in a reliever role in the postseason. 

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The Yankees manager has continued to be impressed by the way Cortes has pitched all year. 

“I mean, he’s a great pitcher,” Boone said. “Going back to when he entered the rotation last year, he has always been consistent, and he’s gotten better and better. He’s got great stuff, command, ability to repeat, presence on both sides of the plate. He’s just become a really, really good pitcher in this league.”

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