Monday's MLB: Yankees' Cortes five outs from no-hitter in 1-0 win over Rangers

Ronald Blum
Associated Press

New York — Nestor Cortes may be the least-heralded top starting pitcher in the major leagues.

The New York Yankees left-hander was five outs from a no-hitter when he threw his 103rd pitch, and No. 9 hitter Eli White looped a single into short center field. The 27-year-old Cortes, a regular starter in the major leagues since only last July, rocked back twice slightly and grinned with disappointment and satisfaction.

Yankees starting pitcher Nestor Cortes leaves Monday's game during the eighth inning against the Rangers at Yankee Stadium in New York.

“When the emotions and the adrenaline is rushing, everything feels great,” he said. “But now I feel like I got hit by a truck.”

Cortes, Clay Holmes and Aroldis Chapman combined on a two-hitter, Anthony Rizzo doubled in a run in the eighth and the Yankees beat the Texas Rangers 1-0 on Monday for their sixth straight series win.

Nestor, at his nastiest, flirts with no-hitter

Cortes is 1-1 with a 1.41 ERA, among the top five in the major leagues and a big reason New York is an AL-best 20-8. He has 42 strikeouts and 11 walks in 32 innings, holding hitters to a .177 average.

A 36th-round draft pick by the Yankees in 2013, Cortes was taken by Baltimore in the 2017 winter meeting draft, made his debut at the start of the following season and was returned to the Yankees that April. He spent the rest of the year in the minors, shuttled back and forth in 2019, then was dealt to Seattle. He was released after a 15.26 ERA in five games with the Mariners in 2020 and re-signed by the Yankees.

“The three years, ’18, ’19 and 20 were pretty rough on me,” Cortes said. “I’ve been playing baseball since I was 4. I feel like that’s the only thing I know how to do. I came out of high school; I don’t have anything to fall back on, so I was going to ride this as long I could.”

Cortes focused on fastballs and cutters, improved his conditioning, boosted his average fastball velocity by 2 mph and joined the Yankees rotation at midseason.

“The game’s littered with people that weren’t always the high pick or the top prospect,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “He’s persevered. He’s experienced everything. He’s had to fight for everything.”

At 90.4 mph, Cortes’ fastball velocity ranks just 134th among 158 pitchers who had thrown 250 or more pitches entering the week.

“It seems to jump on guys, regardless of the velocity,” said Yankees teammate Gerrit Cole, fourth in the majors at 97.6 mph.

Boone cautioned: “Don’t get enamored with the number. There’s guys throwing 96, 97 that are getting hit, that it’s not a good fastball.”

Making his 22nd big league start and sixth this season, Cortes pitched a big league career-high 7 1/3 innings, walked four and struck out 11, one shy of his high.

“He worked the bottom of the zone really well,” said Rangers leadoff hitter Marcus Semien, who went 0 for 3 against Cortes with a pair of strikeouts. “You have to honor that fastball at the bottom, and then he throws a cutter right under it, it’s a recipe for success.”

Cortes threw 68 pitches for strikes.

“I think the first one of the game, to Semien, it looked like just disappearing over there,” Boone said. “It looked like a Steve Carlton slider.”

More games

(At) Pittsburgh 5, L.A. Dodgers 1: Jose Quintana pitched six scoreless innings for his first win since 2019 and the first victory by a Pittsburgh starting pitcher this season.

The Pirates also ended a 16-game losing streak against the Dodgers dating to 2018 and snapped Los Angeles’ six-game winning streak.

Quintana (1-1) allowed four hits and four walks while striking out five. His previous win came on Sept. 5, 2019 at Milwaukee while pitching for the Chicago Cubs.

Julio Urias (2-2) allowed two runs in six-plus innings while scattering 11 hits. He struck out four and walked none.

(At) Baltimore 6, Kansas City 1: Tyler Wells pitched six strong innings to earn his first victory of the season and Baltimore used a six-run fifth inning to surge past Kansas City.

Baltimore has won four of five for the first time this season and finished its homestand 5-4. Kansas City has lost seven of its past nine to fall a season-high eight games under .500.

Wells (1-2) allowed Ryan O’Hearn’s RBI single in the first, but cruised through the rest of his start. He retired 15 of the last 18 batters he faced and struck out three in the longest outing of his career.

The Orioles had only four hits in their fifth-inning rally against Royals starter Carlos Hernández (0-2).

(At) Cincinnati 10, Milwaukee 5: Colin Moran homered in his third straight at-bat, Brandon Drury and Kyle Farmer each hit a three-run homer, and Cincinnati won two straight games for the first time this season.

The Reds, baseball’s worst team at 6-23, bounced back after being swept in three games at Milwaukee last week by a combined score of 34-12.

Moran connected in the second inning off Brandon Woodruff (3-2) to make it 1-0. His first longball of the season was a grand slam in the sixth inning of Sunday’s 7-3 win over the Pirates, and he hit a two-run blast in his next at-bat.

Luis Castillo, who missed all of spring training and the first 28 games with a right shoulder strain, made his season debut for Cincinnati. Luis Cessa (1-0) escaped the fifth before allowing two runs in the sixth.

Oakland 2, (at) Detroit 0: Paul Blackburn threw 6 2/3 strong innings to improve to 4-0 as Oakland beat Detroit to snap a season-high nine-game losing streak.

Tony Kemp hit a solo home run in the third and Chad Pinder added an RBI single in the fourth.

Blackburn gave up four hits and struck out three before leaving in the seventh inning. Despite walking two batters, rookie Dany Jiménez escaped damage and earned his fifth save to finish off the four-hitter.

Michael Pineda (1-2) took the loss, despite allowing only two runs on six hits in 6.2 innings. Javier Báez and manager A.J. Hinch were ejected after arguing balls and strikes in the ninth after Báez was called out on strikes.