The Nestor Cortes Story has been an incredible thing to watch ever since he returned to the Yankees’ roster last season after a couple seasons in the baseball wilderness. On Monday afternoon, it almost became even more incredible.
Cortes started the game with 7.1 no-hit innings against the Rangers, getting within five outs of the feat, and putting us all on red alert. Alas, the no-hitter wouldn’t happen as Eli White broke it up in the eighth inning with a single, but it was still a marvelous performance by him. Cortes struck out 11 before getting removed after allowing the hit.
Not only did the drama of Nestor’s outing build as he got closer to a no-hitter, it also built as the Yankees needed him to keep putting up zeroes. The Yankees’ offense continued its recent cold streak, recording just five hits and going 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position. Eventually, they finally pushed across a run and that ended up being enough thanks to the efforts of Cortes and the bullpen, as the Yankees beat the Rangers, 1-0.
As Cortes was doing his thing, it took awhile for the Yankees to do much of anything themselves. The first hit for either side didn’t come until a fourth-inning Josh Donaldson single. However, neither that nor a couple other New York chances over the next couple innings led to anything meaningful. The most egregious failure to score and get Nestor some run support probably came in the fifth inning. The Yankees had loaded the bases with one out, only for Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo to both strike out to end the inning. There were several questionable strike calls in the inning (as there was all day), but it was still a massively annoying missed chance.
After Cortes’ no-hitter was eventually broken up, he got a good hand as manager Aaron Boone replaced him with Clay Holmes. Due to the nature of the Yankees’ offensive performance, Cortes still could have taken the loss despite coming five outs away from a no-no. Thankfully, Holmes quickly got a double play to end both the inning and that grim possibility.
When the Yankees’ lone run finally did come, it happened in a weird manner, and with the same two players who were involved in that squandered fifth inning opportunity. With Judge on first after a single, Rizzo stepped to the plate. The Yankees’ first baseman doubled on a hit that just sort of floated out into no-man’s land in left-center field. Judge managed to race all the way around from first to score on the hit that had an expected batting average of .290. Rizzo would also get tagged out on the plate, as he went just a little too far past second base trying to get to third when the throw went home.
Now with the lead, Aroldis Chapman came in for the ninth, for his first outing in more than a week. It briefly got a bit scary when Jonah Heim record a two-out hit and then stole second. The third out was a bit of an adventure when Joey Gallo battled the sun on a Nick Solak fly ball, but it ended up in his glove and the game was over.
That out the Yankees’ sixth consecutive series victory — one that was particularly unusual since the team only scored a combined five runs in the three games. Due to the incredible work of the pitching staff, the team escaped with a pair of wins against an underwhelming Rangers ballclub.
If you had told all of us a year ago that we would’ve been rooting extremely hard for a Nestor Cortes no-hitter, we all probably would’ve been very confused. Either way, he has been and continues to be one of the most fun stories in recent Yankees’ memory. Luis Severino will do his best to match Cortes when he gets the ball tomorrow night in the opener of a two-game home set against Yusei Kikuchi and the Blue Jays. First pitch is at 7:05pm ET.