I love Nestor Cortes as much as anyone, but while the mustachioed wonder will face the Pittsburgh Pirates at Yankee Stadium tonight, all eyes will be on the man in right field, Aaron Judge. After belting a pair of homers in the road trip finale in Milwaukee on Sunday, he sits at 59 homers, just one shy of Babe Ruth’ famous total of 60 in 1927 and two behind Roger Maris’ franchise record of 61 in 1961. The cameras will be out as Judge aims to become the first American Leaguer to reach 60 since Maris all those many years ago. I can’t wait.
It will be much less ballyhooed, but tonight will also feature Harrison Bader’s debut in the Yankees lineup, batting seventh. Acquired from the Cardinals in the already-maligned Jordan Montgomery trade, the Bronxville native Bader will at the very least have the chance to prove that he’s an elite defensive center fielder. That’s why the Yankees picked him up, even though he was on the IL. Ideally, he’ll also prove to be an improvement in the lineup over the likes of Aaron Hicks and Miguel Andújar as well. (Frankie Montas was placed on the IL to make room for Bader, so the bench remains the same.)
That’s what’s afoot at bat, but on the mound, the Yankees will deploy Cortes as they attempt to further lower their magic number. Cortes has been tabbed for his third start since returning from the IL on September 8th. The Yankees slightly increased his pitch count from 58 to 65 the last time out in Boston, so hopefully they’ll at least let the All-Star go to 75 as the playoffs approach (even acknowledging possible innings caps). A combination of a Yankees win and a Blue Jays loss to the Phillies will drop it to nine.
Luis Ortiz will get the start for Pittsburgh in just his second MLB appearance. The 23-year-old right-hander acquitted himself nicely in his debut a week ago in Cincinnati, when he one-hit the Reds over 5.2 innings of scoreless ball, striking out five (though he did walk three). It’s been a quick ascent for Ortiz, who made just two starts in Triple-A after 23 in Double-A this year. He was not a Top-100 prospect, though Baseball America did rank him 22nd in the Pirates’ system during their midseason update. BA noted that Ortiz’s command needs to be improved, but he has an upper-90s fastball and two solid offspeed offerings (a slider and changeup).
The man of the year, Judge, will bat leadoff and play right field since Bader is now in town to cover center. Oswaldo Cabrera will stay in the lineup and handle left in just his second professional start (including the minors), and Anthony Rizzo makes his second appearance off the IL. It’s honestly a pretty presentable Yankees offense today, even if I’d rather start Oswald Peraza over Isiah Kiner-Falefa, but that doesn’t seem like it’s going to be a winning battle this year. Oh well. Even beyond Judge, this is a ballgame that the team should win.
How to Watch
Location: Yankee Stadium — Bronx, NY
First pitch: 7:05 pm ET
TV broadcast: YES Network, AT&T Sportsnet-PIT
Radio broadcast: WFAN 660/101.9, WADO 1280, WTMJ 620
Online stream: MLB.tv (out-of-market only)