Nestor Cortes puts on a show as Yankees rout Orioles; Aaron Judge still stuck on No. 61

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			Nestor Cortes puts on a show as Yankees rout Orioles; Aaron Judge still stuck on No. 61
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This winter, Nestor Cortes called pitching coach Matt Blake, just to check and make sure he had a spot on the big league roster. A 38th-round draft pick who has had to earn every start and promotion in his career, Cortes didn’t want to leave anything to chance.

And Saturday, he made sure that the Yankees have him in their plans for big spots in the playoffs. While the packed Yankee Stadium hoped to see Aaron Judge hit a historic 62nd home run of the season, they were instead treated to yet another brilliant start by Cortes. He struck out a dozen and allowed just one hit as the Yankees rolled over the Orioles 8-0.

The Yankees (97-60) won their 10th game out of their last 12. It was their 16th shutout of the season.

Judge was hit by a pitch in his first at-bat, he walked twice and struck out swinging twice Saturday. It was his second game stuck on 61 home runs and trying to become the first American League player to best Roger Maris’  61 year old single-season record. Maris set the 61 home run mark exactly 61 years ago on Saturday.

Giancarlo Stanton and Kyle Higashioka homered for the Yankees. For Stanton, it was his 29th of the season, his first since Sept. 22 and just his fifth in the second half of the season. Gleyber Torres and Josh Donaldson each drove in two runs.

And Cortes was simply dominant.

Cortes, a first-time All-Star this year, struck out 12 hitters, tying his career-high set earlier this season against Baltimore,  and allowed just one hit. He walked two and saved the Yankees taxed bullpen.

“It feels great, honestly. I didn’t know what my position was this year coming in. I knew I had a chance to be a starter, but I didn’t know how many innings I was going to be able to go,” Cortes said. “And luckily, I’m here in the middle of it and I’m happy to be part of it.”

He should be a very big part of it.

The 27 year old lefty has arguably been the Bombers most effective pitcher this season. He’s 12-4 with a 2.44 ERA over 28 starts. While he may not get the honor of pitching Game 1 of the Division Series, he should pitch the second one. That would line up to pitch the fifth game if the series goes that far.

He has certainly made the case for that.

Cortes has not allowed a run and struck out 31 in three starts (18.1 innings pitched) against the Orioles, who cut him off the 40-man roster in 2018.

It was Cortes’ seventh time this season he did not allow a run. He’s allowed three runs or less in 25 of his 28 starts this season, two runs or less in 21, and one run or less in 15

In five starts since coming off the injured list with a groin injury, Cortes is 4-0 with a 1.37 ERA. He’s allowed just two hits in his last 13.1 innings pitched.

“He had a great year. I mean he was an All-Star obviously, in the first half and has continued to pitch like that through the rest of the season,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “So excited for him to go out and make his last regular season start today but it’s been a phenomenal season. And one of the big reasons we’re in the position we are.”

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