When Aaron Judge went deep twice last night, I thought, “Yeah, this team really needed that.” It’s been a frustrating start to the year, and both the Yankees and their fans needed some kind of reset. It’s just baseball, this is a good baseball team; act like it.
And boy, did we need a win like today’s. Nestor Cortes was as strong as ever, Joey Gallo reached base multiple times, and the Yankees got more than one clutch hit, coming back from a deficit two different times before Gleyber Torres was finally the hero of the day, walking off the Guardians in a 5-4 victory.
I think we all knew that Cortes was eventually going to give up a run, but it still felt pretty surprising when it happened. The lefty threw 4.1 no-hit innings, allowing just a pair of walks, before Josh Naylor finally got to him, putting a fly ball into the Yankee Stadium seats to give the Guardians a 2-0 lead at the time.
Aside from one wayward pitch, Cortes was as excellent as we’ve seen him be all season. He engineered three swings and misses from Steven Kwan, a guy with arguably the most pure bat-to-ball contact skill in the game, as part of his eight strikeouts. I thought a seminal moment for Cortes — and what he suddenly means to this pitching staff — came in the seventh, where Clay Holmes was up, warm, and ready to come into the game.
Holmes is one of the absolute elite relievers in baseball, Nestor was facing José Ramírez, one of the absolute elite hitters in baseball for the third time, and the game was tied. Nobody would blame manager Aaron Boone for going to his deep, dirty bullpen after six good innings from his starter — instead, Nestor got to face J-Ram, and engineered a harmless popup, the third time he had retired Ramírez on the day.
As an added part of the show, Cortes began making a case for Gold Glove alongside his case for Cy Young:
The last thing about how amazing it is to see Nestor go on this kind of run: After that diving play, the very next batter he faced was the aforementioned Ramírez, who again, I stress, is one of the four or five best hitters in baseball.
What does Cortes do, after making one of the wildest defensive plays you’ll see from a pitcher? There’s a hitch, a hop, a slight delay in the delivery, and Ramírez has no answer for a pitch that he could have crushed:
Nestor, Messing with Timing. pic.twitter.com/rKvN6Ol8yH— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 23, 2022
Offensively, well ... Yankees didn’t do much for eight innings, again. Isiah Kiner-Falefa had an RBI single — we’ll get back to him in a moment — and Kyle Higashioka followed that up with a sac fly to knot the game at two in the fifth, and Josh Donaldson crushed a ball over the left-center-field fence to give the club the lead. Unfortunately, an inning later, Chad Green allowed a two-run shot to Austin Hedges that made it 4-3, Guardians.
Aaron Judge had an oh-fer after a big Friday night, but put three balls in play at over 100 mph. Giancarlo Stanton continued his ice-cold run at the plate, with two hard-hit outs and a strikeout. There was a lot of hard contact, but headed into the ninth, the club didn’t have a lot to show for it.
Funny thing about consistently making hard contact though: if you keep it up, balls have a habit of dropping in. Down by a run in the ninth inning, Donaldson reached on a leadoff walk, with pinch-runner Tim Locastro swiping second. Kiner-Falefa, who had opened the scoring earlier in the day, then brought Lo home with a double off the wall to tie it.
Up stepped another Yankee in a real cold run, Gleyber Torres, taking up pinch-hit duties in lieu of Higashioka. You’d be forgiven for watching his at-bat through your fingers, but:
The only downside to all the excitement came seconds later, when fans in right field began tossing beer cans and other trash at the Guardians’ players. Center fielder Myles Straw had gotten into a tiff a few minutes before and jumped halfway up the wall to yell at some fans in wake of Kwan being checked out by some trainers following the IKF double, but that did not give them the right to act like assholes. Even Judge and Stanton interrupted the walk-off celebrations to run out to right field and plead for peace. Not a great moment!
Don’t look now, but the Yankees have won four of their last five and can sweep the series tomorrow. The theoretical ace of the staff, Gerrit Cole, will get the ball for a 1:05pm start against Aaron Civale.