Nestor Cortes, once known as the quirky lefty with the funky deliveries, is now simply known as the Yankees’ best starter. The left-hander delivered again, flirting with a no-hitter until the eighth inning as the Yankees outscored the Rangers 1-0 at Stadium in a morning replay of Saturday’s rain-suspended game.
Cortes struck out 11, one shy of his career high, and worked about four walks but pitched 7 1/3 scoreless innings. The Yankees also didn’t score until Aaron Judge scored from first on Anthony Rizzo’s fly single to left-center in the bottom of the eighth.
That was too late to give Cortes a win, but it did give the Yankees (20-8) the series victory over the Rangers (11-16). They have won 13 of their last 15 games and seven of their nine complete series this season.
With Clay Holmes warming up behind him before the eighth inning began, Cortes struck out Charlie Culberson with a 91 mph fastball. Eli White hit a 1-2 four-seam fastball and sent it into shallow center field to break the no-hitter bid.
He also finished Cortes’ day after throwing 103 pitches. Yankees manager Aaron Boone waited on the top step of the dugout for an extra heartbeat for fans to get up and give the young left-hander the standing ovation he deserved.
Holmes convinced Marcus Semien to hit a double-play groundout to end the Rangers’ threat.
Boone warmed up right-hander Chad Green in the bullpen after Cortes walked Corey Seager to lead off the seventh inning. The Yankees took him out at second on Jonah Heim’s fielder’s choice, but then Cortes walked Nick Solak and sent pitching coach Matt Blake to the mound. With two on and one out, Cortés struck out Andy Ibáñez with an 86 mph slice in the outside corner. Kole Calhoun rolled to second base to end the inning and threat.
As the only regularly rested starting pitcher this time in the rotation due to a scheduled day off and two rain absences, Cortes set the tone with a nine-pitch first inning in which he struck out the first two batters he faced. The cutter was his most effective pitch, hitting 12 swings and missing with it. He had 17 puffs in total on Monday.
He walked Heim to lead off the second inning, but then retired 13 straight batters. He walked ninth batter Eli White in the sixth.
After arriving at spring training in March not knowing if he would be in the rotation or the bullpen, Cortes has been the Bombers’ best starter so far this year. He took his first loss of the season Wednesday night against the Blue Jays in Toronto, allowing just two earned runs on four hits and raising his ERA to a team-best 1.82. Since he debuted in the 2021 season on May 30, Cortés had the lowest ERA (2.68) in the American League.
The tightrope Cortes and Boone had to walk Monday was that while the left-hander dominated the Rangers’ hitters, the Yankees’ lineup hadn’t given him a single run to work with.
The Bombers had the bases loaded in the fifth inning when Judge sat on a 94 mph fastball down the middle and then struck out on a swing. Rizzo followed up with a 96 mph fastball up the middle.