In the face of a three games-to-none deficit to the Astros, a long rain delay, a punchless offense, and a dispirited fan base, the Yankees did have one legitimate hope in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series. They would be handing the ball to fan favorite Nestor Cortes, who had a surprisingly consistent All-Star season in 2022 and helped save the Yankees’ bacon in the do-or-die Game 5 of the American League Division Series against the Guardians. Cortes was terrific on short rest, so there was certainly reason to hope that at the very least, he could keep the Yankees in the game on Sunday night.
Well, the first two innings went decently enough. The Yankees actually put some runs on the board off Houston starter Lance McCullers Jr. while Cortes tossed a pair of scoreless frames. They had a 3-0 lead as Cortes took the hill for the top of the third ... and promptly issued back-to-back walks to Martín Maldonado and Jose Altuve. Few of the pitches were even close to the zone, and his velocity was down, as well.
Nestor Cortes 4-Seam Fastball Velocity This Game— Katie Sharp (@ktsharp) October 24, 2022
3rd inning: 88.3 mph
1st-2nd innings: 91.0 mph
Manager Aaron Boone and the Yankees’ trained visited Cortes once during this stretch, and they apparently decided that they were fine with leaving him in. Then, Jeremy Peña hit a deflating three-run bomb to tie the game at 3-3, and out went Cortes with the trainer.
A little while later, the Yankees announced that a groin injury was the culprit:
Nestor Cortes left tonight's game with a left groin injury.— New York Yankees (@Yankees) October 24, 2022
Apparently, Cortes had been dealing with groin problems since his first playoff start back in Game 2 of the ALDS on October 14th.
This was a tough emotional blow, if not only because Cortes is so beloved on this team. It was a strange enough that Boone and company left the guy who was already pitching through pain in when he was so obviously in discomfort and faced with the tall task of the heart of the Astros’ lineup ahead (in an elimination game, too). But, well, that’s what happened. Fun series, huh?
Now the Yankees must cross their fingers on both living to see another a day and for Cortes’ groin injury to not be too severe.