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Yankees 9, Angels 3: Explosive first inning helps Nestor Cortes coast

New York has yet to lose a series in 2023, and they kept that streak going with a five-run first to support Cortes.

Los Angeles Angels v New York Yankees Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

A hot start turned out to be all the Yankees needed to secure a series win over the Angels. On the back of a five-run first and a strong outing from Nestor Cortes, the Yankees took this one, 9-3.

Angels starter Patrick Sandoval came into the afternoon having allowed only a pair of earned runs on the year. By the second inning, that number had tripled, as nine men came to the plate in the first. Five of the Yankees’ first six hitters reached base, with two singles and three walks. Anthony Rizzo plated the opening salvo on an RBI single and Oswald Peraza made it 2-0 with a bases-loaded walk.

After an Oswaldo Cabrera strikeout, though, it was up to the bottom of the order to pounce with two men down. Jose Trevino received a gift from Sandoval, in the form of a hanging slider. The Yankees’ catcher drove one to deep left field, hitting the bottom of the wall and clearing the bases.

Before the first inning was over, the Yankees led 5-0, and were well on their way to a series victory.

In what has become routine at this point, Cortes went out there against a lineup spearheaded by Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout, inarguably the best duo in the entire sport, and delivered another high-quality performance. Cortes went six innings, allowing a base runner per inning (1.00 WHIP), and keeping the damage at only a couple of runs while he was out there.

The Angels broke through in the fifth inning with three consecutive hitters reaching base, and it could have been a lot worse with the top of the order coming up. However, Cortes showed poise in getting Zach Neto, Taylor Ward, and Ohtani in order, keeping the damage at two.

The southpaw had his pitch count in decent shape entering the seventh inning, nearing 90 pitches. However, after a leadoff walk, Aaron Boone opted to err with caution and removed Cortes with Ron Marinaccio ready in the ‘pen. That leadoff walk quickly came around to score after a double by Logan O’Hoppe, thus ending a streak of nine consecutive starts for Nestor Cortes, allowing two or fewer runs, which tied the Yankee record.

With the book closed at three runs over six for Cortes with seven punchouts, he still maintained a streak that surpassed Ron Guidry’s, of consecutive starts allowing three or fewer earned runs, the 16th in a row for Nasty Nestor. He’ll take it.

Logan O’Hoppe brought the lead down to 5-2 with his RBI double off Marinaccio. Still, the right-hander got the next two hitters, Neto and Ward, on a strikeout and groundout, respectively. With O’Hoppe in scoring position, two outs, and Ohtani due up, Boone made his second trip to the mound on the inning, calling for the left-hander Wandy Peralta. That at-bat started with an automatic ball, as the home-plate ump called a violation on Peralta, even though Ohtani wasn’t making eye contact within eight seconds.

Ohtani benefitted from that call, working a walk, and suddenly, you had Trout in a crucial spot against a lefty. Trout would’ve driven in a run with a single up the middle, but a diving stab by Anthony Volpe held O’Hoppe at third.

In the biggest at-bat of the game, Anthony Rendon came up with the Angels down by two and the bases loaded, as Peralta was required to face another batter. Luckily for the Yankees, the the 31-year-old southpaw finished the job, getting a flyout from the Angels’ third baseman. The lead was preserved.

The Angels were unable to capitalize on their opportunity. Quickly thereafter, the Yankees put the game away, adding three insurance runs in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Rizzo and Gleyber Torres led off the frame with back-to-back walks, and DJ LeMahieu drove in the former with a double. Following outs by Cabrera and Peraza, Isiah Kiner-Falefa — who had a pair of nifty plays in center today — demonstrated a great piece of hitting, just reaching a slider off the plate to dump it into center field for a two-run single. The lead was now 8-3.

Just for good measure, New York added another one in the eighth inning on an Oswald Peraza RBI single.

As far as the Yankees bullpen was concerned, following Nestor’s six innings, Marinaccio and Peralta handled the seventh, while the game was still pretty open. With a big lead in the final two innings, Ian Hamilton and Gregory Weissert each covered one in a seamless fashion. The Yankees have gone six series into the season without a loss for just the third time in 63 years of Expansion Era baseball (only the 1976 and 2003 clubs did so as well).

Now 12-7, the Yankees face perhaps their biggest test yet in the Blue Jays. The division rivals will be in town for three games this weekend, starting tomorrow night. It will be Domingo Germán against Yusei Kikuchi with first pitch coming at 7:05pm ET on Apple TV+.

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