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Yankees’ Nestor Cortes ready to roll for Game 2 start vs. Guardians

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Yankees starting pitcher Nestor Cortes throws during the 1st inning of his shoutout performance.
Yankees starting pitcher Nestor Cortes throws during the 1st inning of his shoutout performance.
AP Photo/Nick Wass

For all the column space and air time spent discussing whether or not Nestor Cortes should start Game 1 or Game 2 for the Yankees, his playoff debut has finally arrived. 

Arguably New York’s regular season ace “Nasty Nestor” will step onto the mound for his postseason debut in pinstripes. Similar to the man that will backstop for the Yankees on Thursday, Jose Trevino, Cortes has never pitched in a Major League Baseball playoff game, but had an outstanding regular season in the Bronx. 

Now that opportunity will arise for the lefty, along with a chance to put his team in complete control of the series heading back to Cleveland. 

“That would be an honor to do so,” Cortes said about potentially giving the Yankees a 2-0 series lead. “I think everybody knows this is a three-out-of-five, and to get that second-game win is going to be huge for us. We are going to have the series on a choke hold like everybody says, and it gives us a better opportunity to advance. For me to have that opportunity and to go out there and to give the best chance that I can give to the team for a W is going to be amazing.”

Cortes has done his far share of already putting the Yankees in position to be successful throughout the year. He ha 12 wins in 28 starts this season and has 2.44 ERA with 163 strikeouts in 158.1 innings pitched. The 2022 season marked a new career high in innings pitched for the surprise star as well as his first trip to the All-Star Game.

However, the playoffs are a different beast and the Cleveland Guardians certainly have an offense that can do damage. The Guardians team .254 batting average was seventh-best in all of baseball during the regular season and they had the sixth most hits with 1,410. 

Yankees Nestor Cortes
New York Yankees starting pitcher Nestor Cortes waits as Tampa Bay Rays’ Randy Arozarena runs the bases on a three-run home run during the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022, in New York.AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

“I faced them twice this year. I felt like I did pretty good both times,” Cortes said, referencing his April 23 and July 2 starts against them. He pitched at least six innings in both games and allowed no more than two runs while striking out at least six batters in each game. 

“Just try and induce as much low-contact quality as I can, put the ball in play,” Cortes continued to explain. “They are a fast team. They are waiting to steal at any point. You know, I think as long as we keep them inside the ballpark and we control the running game, we’ll be fine. I think our defense is pretty sharp behind us as you guys saw yesterday, so it’s going to be good.”

There may be a wrench thrown into the Yankees’ plans for Thursday with rain expected in the area, which could push back Cortes’ start. If Game 2 is pushed back it would force the Yankees and Guardians to play four consecutive if the series goes the full five games.

Cortes said that he would be open to pitching in a Game 5 scenario if things shake out that way. Manager Aaron Boone didn’t seem to rule it out either. 

“I would consider him being an option in that kind of scenario,” Boone said. “But, you know, if he goes Friday, you know, hopefully we’re not in a Game 5 situation, but if we are, we’ll see. I mean, he would maybe be in play but I wouldn’t — not necessarily as a traditional starter.”

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Cortes’ story this season has quickly made him a fan favorite, and his openness to go in Game 5 if needed is sure to add to that. He had received one of the loudest cheers during the player introductions on Tuesday and Boone had an understandable hypthysis as to why so many have gravitated to Cortes.

“I think his personality. He looks like you and I. You feel like you could relate to him. You feel like you could probably do what he does — you can’t,” Boone said.

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