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NY Post
New York Post
5 Aug 2023


NextImg:Nestor Cortes, Yankees’ bullpen dominant in encouraging win over Astros

There was plenty of relief to be found in The Bronx on Saturday.

A struggling Yankees rotation welcomed back Nestor Cortes with a large exhale, before a steady stream of relievers finished the job.

Cortes, Ian Hamilton, Tommy Kahnle, Michael King and Clay Holmes outpitched three-time Cy Young winner Justin Verlander.

The Yankees’ staff combined to two-hit the Astros, spoiling Verlander’s first start since the Mets shipped him out, in a 3-1 win over the hated rivals in front of 41,411 at the Stadium.

The Yankees (58-53) will not lose the series to the Astros (63-49), taking two of three before Sunday’s finale. 

Aaron Boone’s crew moved three games behind the wild-card-leading Blue Jays before Toronto had played Saturday.

Carlos Rodon can give the Yankees their first series victory since sweeping the Royals on July 21-23.

The Yankees’ offense produced little against Verlander (seven innings, two runs), but that’s all it needed to produce.

Nestor Cortes pitches during the Yankees’ win over the Astros on Aug. 5.
Jason Szenes for the NY Post

Anthony Volpe’s sacrifice fly in the second inning scored Isiah Kiner-Falefa for the game’s first run, and Jake Bauers’ 11th homer of the season, off Verlander in the fifth inning, became the game-winner.

Gleyber Torres added his 17th dinger of the season to provide insurance in the eighth inning.

Cortes was excellent through four, one-run, one-hit innings in his first start in more than two months.

But he is still building up and was pulled after 64 pitches, rushed back after Domingo German left the team to seek treatment for alcohol abuse.

After Cortes exited, Hamilton pitched two hitless innings and Kahnle added a hitless frame.

Nestor Cortes

Nestor Cortes enjoyed a strong return from the injured list.
Jason Szenes for the NY Post

Yainer Diaz blooped a leadoff single against King in the eighth, but the righty stranded Diaz at first.

Holmes picked up his 16th save of the season with a perfect ninth.

The Yankees struck out 16 Astros, and the majors’ best bullpen answered the call again.

Yankees relievers have allowed just four runs in their past 34 ⅔ innings (1.04 ERA), easily the biggest strength on a floundering club.

Jake Bauers hits a solo home run during the Yankees' win over the Astros on Aug. 5.

Jake Bauers hits a solo home run during the Yankees’ win over the Astros on Aug. 5.
Jason Szenes for the NY Post

The rotation has been an issue that has grown larger, but in Cortes’ return, he looked a lot more like the 2022 All-Star than the 2023 battler.

The lefty showed stuff that he did not possess in 11 outings this season in April and May.

The afternoon’s most encouraging development for the Yankees entailed Cortes looking strong and healthy.

The lefty entered play with a 5.16 ERA, produced with diminished velocity.

Jake Bauers rounds the bases after homering in the Yankees' win over the Astros on Aug. 5.

Jake Bauers rounds the bases after homering in the Yankees’ win over the Astros on Aug. 5.
Jason Szenes for the NY Post

He had thrown 1,004 pitches through May, his fastest at 94.7 mph, before hitting the injured list with a left rotator cuff strain.

In his first inning back, he threw his two hardest pitches of the season, including a 95.6-mph fastball that struck out Kyle Tucker.

Cortes walked one and recorded 12 outs, eight on strikeouts.

Houston batters swung at 34 of his pitches and missed half (17), the most whiffs Cortes has induced all year.

His only mistake was a middle-of-the-plate cutter to Jose Altuve, who hammered a third-inning, solo home run.

Within a Yankees rotation that no longer includes German and might not proceed with Luis Severino, who has been ineffective, the Yankees will need this version of Cortes to remain.