Yankees’ Nestor Cortes tosses gem after controversial illegal pitch

After Nestor Cortes was called for an illegal pitch, the rest of his pitches just could be called nasty.

Cortes wasn’t rattled by a controversy or by manager Aaron Boone charging out of the dugout to come to his defense in the middle of a seven-inning gem Friday night, when he retired the final eight batters he faced to lead the Yankees to a 4-2 victory against the White Sox.

“I thought in the beginning I wasn’t throwing the ball where I wanted to,” Cortes said. “In the third or fourth inning, things got more under control. I was able to pepper the outside corner the way I wanted to. The cutter and fastball were really good, and toward the end of the outing I was able to use the changeup a lot. I was able to mix all night — that’s kind of what got me there.”

Nestor Cortes (R.) argues with the umpire during the Yankees' win over the Twins on May 17, 2024.
Nestor Cortes argues with umpire Laz Diaz during the Yankees’ win over the White Sox on May 17, 2024. Getty Images

Cortes stranded runners on the corners in the first, worked around a two-out double in the fourth and picked off Zach Remillard at second base to ease the tension of a two-on no-out situation in the fifth.

No batters reached base after the pick-off.

“He didn’t have all the power on his fastball, but I thought he was getting it to good spots,” Boone said. “Overall, it shows you that you’ve just got to get to spots.”

Cortes (2-4) continued to pitch like an ace at Yankee Stadium, improving to 2-1 with a 1.27 ERA over five home starts.

He is 0-3 with a 6.75 ERA in five road starts.

Opposing hitters hit .125 points higher against Cortes on the road (.293) than they do in the Bronx (.168).

Why are the splits so dramatically different?

“Good question,” Cortes said. “I want to know the answer to that, too. I prepare the same. I try to do everything as I do here at home. It just hasn’t clicked yet [on the road]. Hopefully we can turn that around.”

Maybe an increasing reliance on his changeup — he got five whiffs on eight swings against 15 changeups — will turn things around.

“It’s a weapon,” Cortes said. “Across the league, everybody knows I throw strikes. Everybody knows I’m going to go in on you. Now, it’s playing that mind game with them. Whether they have to look out for the changeup now or the heater up, I think the changeup is going to be something I can use more going forward.”

Nestor Cortes pitches during the Yankees' win over the White Sox on May 17, 2024.
Nestor Cortes pitches during the Yankees’ win over the White Sox on May 17, 2024. Robert Sabo for NY Post

One pitch after he used some of his trademark exaggerated motion to disrupt the hitter’s timing in the sixth inning, Cortes threw a quick pitch that was deemed a violation by home-plate umpire Laz Diaz.

Cortes, who strongly argued the call, declined to comment on the ruling other than to say there is “a little bit of gray area.” 

Corey Julks struck out later in the at-bat. 

“I don’t think it was an illegal pitch,” Boone said. “Nestor was set. Initially [Diaz] told me he stepped off with his left foot first, which clearly did not happen. He stepped off right. He just sped up his wind-up. I have to look into it, but my first reaction is that it’s not an illegal pitch.”

Not that the White Sox did much with Cortes’ 93 legal pitches, anyway.

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