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Yankees 1, Cardinals 1: Nestor Cortes dazzles in pitchers’ duel

In his second start since his early spring injury, Nasty Nestor’s stuff looked quite ready for Opening Day.

New York Yankees Spring Training Photo by New York Yankees/Getty Images

On a spring afternoon dominated by pitching excellence from both the Yankees and Cardinals, New York got to enjoy some very reassuring work by 2022 All-Star Nestor Cortes. The southpaw was only making his second start of camp due to the hamstring injury that kept him out of both the World Baseball Classic and early spring action, but he looked much closer to his vintage form than in his initial outing. The final result turned out to be a 1-1 tie.

The Cardinals weren’t deploying a boring old spring lineup of minor leaguers, either. This was one laden with talent, including defending NL MVP Paul Goldschmidt, hard-hitting catcher Willson Contreras, and more regulars who they’ll use throughout the 2023 campaign.

But Cortes was in control, even on a limited pitch count. In four shutout innings, the lefty allowed just two hits with no walks, all while striking out seven batters.

Cortes had all his pitches working and certainly varied his velocity as well. That’s not easy to hit, and even the Cardinals’ lone two knocks were ho-hum. Tyler O’Neill merely flared a single to the opposite field in the first, and Contreras lined one in the fourth that Anthony Volpe nearly snared on a dive at shortstop.

That was it for Nasty Nestor.

If the Yankees can get this kind of work from Cortes at the outset of the 2023 season, then they’ll be in good shape to weather Carlos Rodón’s temporary absence from the rotation. (Even better news: Rodón threw a limited bullpen today on his road back to the Yankees’ roster.)

The only problem for New York in this matinee was that Steven Matz brought pretty good stuff to the ballpark as well. He was obviously more stretched out than Cortes and thus went six innings of three-hit ball, fanning five batters along the way in an 86-pitch outing. The Long Island native’s lone blemish came in the fourth, when Oswaldo Cabrera continued his solid spring with his third homer in Grapefruit League play.

Each of Volpe, Gleyber Torres, Anthony Rizzo, and Oswald Peraza went hitless, so Cabrera had to provide the small bit of offense. But boy did he ever with a 391-foot long ball.

The Yankees’ two other hits came on a well-struck single by Giancarlo Stanton in the second and a more pedestrian single from Jose Trevino in the third. It is worth noting though that Trevino probably got jobbed of would have been the game’s decisive homer in the eighth. He clubbed a fat Giovanny Gallegos fastball that per Statcast would’ve sailed 420 feet on a normal day, but the winds of Jupiter, Florida knocked it down and Oscar Mercado made a routine catch in center field. Oh well.

The Cardinals’ one run came in the fifth, when Greg Weissert’s control abandoned him somewhat in relief of Cortes. With one out, Lars Nootbaar walked and Masyn Winn got plunked to moved the WBC champion into scoring position. A batter later, Tommy Edman singled him home, and that was that. At least Ron Marinaccio and Nick Ramirez tossed zeroes up on the scoreboard over the final four frames to ensure the tie. By the way, Marinaccio is down to a 1.42 ERA and 0.79 WHIP in 6.1 innings this spring; the dude is good.

It’s back to the old spring stomping grounds tomorrow afternoon, as the Yankees host the Twins (and new acquisition Pablo López) at GMS Field in Tampa. Gerrit Cole will get the ball for a 1:05pm ET start time, with a return to YES Network to boot.

Box Score