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The Journey of ‘Nasty’ Nestor

Image Credit: Daniel Budasoff/Latino Sports

Bronx, NY– ‘Nasty’ Nestor Cortes has become a New York spectacle every five days on the mound. The Cuban-born native from Surgidero de Batabanó was announced as the Yankees ALDS Game 2 starter this past Monday, and four days later at Yankee Stadium, he had a sellout crowd of 47,535 rise to their feet. Perhaps a magician on the mound? 

In his first career postseason start, Cortes held Cleveland’s offense in check for the majority of his outing, allowing two earned runs across six hits and three walks in five innings pitched. 

“I thought it was pretty good, missed a couple pitches,” said Cortes on how he felt out there. “I wish I could take back that (Andrés) Giménez pitch, 0-2, you know, I just can’t miss over the plate. But other than that, I thought everything was pretty good.”

On top of his three strikeouts, the left-hander completed an acrobatic play on a Myles Straw come backer in the top of the fourth to escape a bases-loaded jam. 

“I’m supposed to make that play 100% of the time. Just a little bit more dramatic effect into it,” Cortes said. “The bounce pass was probably the best idea because if I were to get up and go, I would probably would have been late.”

Although he did not record a decision, Cortes was his ‘Nasty’ vintage self. What damaged the Yankees most in the Game 2, 4-2 loss was lack of execution on offense, leaving 11 on base (0-7 with RISP) totaling only six hits compared to the Guardians nine. 

“You know, (James) Karinchak and (Emmanuel) Clase, we made them work but just ultimately weren’t able to break through,” said Yankees manager Aaron Boone on the offensive performance in Game 2. “And for most of the day, it was one of those days where it’s a little bit tougher for the hitters to see it up there.”

But, back to ‘Nasty’ Nestor. The journey of Cortes begins as a newborn with his young parents deciding to move from their home in Cuba and migrate to the United States for a better life and opportunities. He was only seven months old during the move and recognizes the sacrifices made by his parents every chance he gets. 

“They have worked their tail off since we got here, I’ve got to give all the credit to them,” said Cortes about the significance of his parents. “They groomed me to be. I want to say, like a pretty good young man that takes care of his life and is pretty responsible. For them to do that and to give me that freedom to do whatever I wanted in this country and to go about my business every day has meant the world to me. So I thank them a lot.”

Image Credit: Daniel Budasoff/Latino Sports

His blunder of delivery motions to the plate has created a hidden challenge for any opposition. A solid comparison to the great Dontrelle Willis, who was unpredictable as it gets with his mythological pitching mechanics. Meaning, the slight ramp-up and delay on their deliveries, adjusting on various angles, results in bad timing and causes off-balanced approaches for hitters.

On an interesting note, Cortes grew up in Hialeah, Florida, residing less than an hour from where Willis pitched for the Florida Marlins at the franchises former ballpark called Sun Life Stadium in 2003-2007. Perhaps, a young Cortes savored the moment and stored the skill set of Willis in his own repertoire.

The consistency out of Cortes transcended him into one of the most dominant left-handers across Major League Baseball. He allowed three runs or fewer in 25 of his 28 outings, totaling 163 strikeouts across 158.1 innings pitched this regular season, marking a career high in all three categories (Games Started, K, IP). 

Nestor Cortes – Regular Season ERA by Month

April: 1.31

May: 1.95

June: 4.15

August: 3.33

September: 1.80 

October (one start vs. Orioles): 0.00

To caveat in, Cortes finished the year with a 2.44 ERA, marking the third-lowest by a Yankees pitcher in a single-season in the Divisional era since 1969, with a minimum of 25 games started (Ron Guidry; 1.74 in 1978, and Steve Jac. Kline; 2.40 in 1972). 

“I’m convinced we’re about to do something special over these next few weeks,” Cortes stated in The Players Tribune – Time To Lock In, New York – a first person, in-depth story about the 27-year-olds marvelous season and bond of the 2022 New York Yankees team. 

Image Credit: Bill Menzel/Latino Sports

“​​I truly believe this year is different, and it’s because of all those little things like that. It’s because of our makeup, and because of the leadership we see in the clubhouse every day, from Aaron Boone all the way down. It really is like a family in there.” 

Due to drastic rain in New York moving Game 2 back one day, Cortes won’t be able to pitch in a necessary Game 5 unless he’s on short rest. A challenge the left-hander has never faced in his big league career. 

Nonetheless, the Yankees may not have to deal with that issue if the Bronx Bomber offense becomes what it was in Game 1 of the ALDS. 

As we stand tied 1-1 in the best-of-five series, New York must execute with runners on and manage their bullpen efficiently to close out the Guardians in four games. And if we get to a Game 5 at Yankee Stadium, expect mayhem in the winner-take-all. 

“You know, we’ll get on that plane and go and try and grab one tomorrow,” Boone said.

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