Thursday, April 20, 2023

Yankees Get Solid Start From Nestor, Backed By Early Lead & IKF Flashing Leather

Nestor Cortes firing one in against Mike Trout in the first inning. Photo by Jason Schott.


The Yankees rolled to a 9-3 win over the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday evening, as Nestor Cortes had a solid start, they gave him an early lead with a big first inning, and Isiah Kiner-Falefa made the most of a rare appearance in center field. 

The Bronx Bombers are now 12-7 on the season after taking two of three from the Angels, and they are 4-3 on this 10-game homestand that concludes with a three-game series against their division rival Toronto Blue Jays starting tomorrow night.

Nestor Cortes got the win to improve to 3-0 on the season, with a 3.09 ERA (earned run average), as he went six innings, and allowed three runs on four hits and two walks, with seven strikeouts.

Yankees Manager Aaron Boone said of Cortes' performance, "Okay, I didn't think he was 'great Nestor' today, but I thought he was really good at times, and he's Nestor, you know, six strong on a day when, you know, I thought he was a little bit in and out, the stuff was good at times, but he can just really pitch...

"That's, I feel like, even him right there, not necessarily at his best, I thought he made some mistakes and he's still able to have that kind of an outing right there speaks, which I think just speaks to the kind of pitcher he is."

Cortes' day began in style, as he struck out Turner Ward, then got Shohei Ohtani to pop out back to him, and then had Mike Trout bounce one back to him for the third out.

In the bottom of the first, against Angels starter Patrick Sandoval, who entered with a 1-0 record and a 1.23 ERA, the Yankees went to work and grinded out at-bats as we've come to know them for three decades.

Anthony Volpe walked to lead it off, Aaron Judge singled, and Anthony Rizzo laced a single to center field to bring in Volpe and make it 1-0.

After Gleyber Torres hit a liner to third base for the first out, DJ LeMahieu walked to load the bases, and then Oswald Peraza also walked to force in a run and make it 2-0 Yankees.

Sandoval then struck out Oswaldo Cabrera for the second out, but Jose Trevino would turn it into a big inning as he blasted one to left field that hit the base of the fence in left field and cleared the bases to give the Yankees a 5-0 lead. Isiah Kiner-Falefa flew out to end the inning in which the Yankees batted around.

Boone said of the big inning to start their day, "Put us in a great position, but I thought it was great. You know, Volpe started it all off, and then everyone just kind of grinded him (Sandoval) down, and, you know, to throw a five-spot up there, and then, you know, get him out of them after four. You know, he kind of settled in and, you know, kept them in the game a little bit where they were able to scratch their way back in. But, I thought just, for the most part all day, that first inning set us up big time, but another really good game where I thought we played really well again defensively, and that's been something that we've done well so far."

The big defense was provided by Isiah Kiner-Falefa in center field, who made a nice catch on a liner from Taylor Ward in the third, and then an incredible diving catch to his right to rob Hunter Renfroe of an extra base hit to end the fourth inning.

Then, in the fifth, the Angels rallied against Cortes, as Brandon Drury singled, Luis Rengifo doubled, and Logan O'Hoppe got an RBI single to get them on the board. 

Zach Neto struck out for the first out, and then Ward blasted one to deep left-center field, and Kiner-Falefa had a beat on it.

IKF made an incredible diving catch near the warning track for the second out, and though it was a sacrifice fly that would bring in Rengifo to make it 5-2 Yankees, that could have provided major damage. Cortes then got Ohtani to ground out to second base to end the inning.

Boone was asked if he saw the instincts to play outfield from Kiner-Falefa, who largely has played infield in his time with the Yankees, "Yes, yeah, that's what we saw, you got to see it translate into games, but we were really encouraged by what we saw right away (in spring training). You know, today was tough sun out there, first one (Ward in the third) he kind of lost in the sun and had to re-find it, and then, the second one (Renfroe in fourth) cost him a little bit of a jump coming in, but he's got that athleticism and foot speed to make up on it, and then that play on Ward (in the fifth) was - that was legit."

In the seventh, Cortes walked Rengifo to open the inning before he was lifted for Ron Marinaccio. O'Hoppe greeted him with a double to bring in Rengifo and make it a 5-3 Yankees lead. 

Marinaccio got the next two Angels out before he yielded to Wandy Peralta. Ohtani drew a walk, and then Mike Trout singled to load the bases, but the left-hander then got Anthony Rendon to hit a routine fly ball to left field to end the inning.

In the bottom of the seventh, Angels reliever Tucker Davidson, who had pitched a scoreless fifth and sixth innings, walked Rizzo and he exited for Jimmy Herget.

Torres walked, and then DJ LeMahieu laced an RBI double for the Yankees first run since the opening frame. Later in the inning, with two on and two out, Kiner-Falefa laced a two-run single to open up an 8-3 lead for the Yankees. Those were his first RBIs of the season, and proves the adage, "good defense can lead to good offense."

The Yankees tacked one on in the eighth when Judge walked, and then with the bases loaded, he would score on a hit by Peraza to make it 9-3. That would be the first RBI of the season for the highly-touted Yankees prospect who was called up last Saturday, and was in the lineup at second base in this one.

KOLE CALHOUN: Before the game, the Yankees signed outfielder Kole Calhoun to a minor league contract. The 35-year-old Calhoun played last season for the Texas Rangers, in which he played in 125 games, and hit .196 with 12 home runs and had 49 RBI, 49 runs scored, 27 walks, and 14 doubles. He started his career with the Angels, from 2012-19, and then played for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2020 and '21. In his career, in 1,196 games, he has hit .243 (1,042-for-4,291), with 173 HR, 557 RBI, 618 R, 437 BB, and 198 doubles.

YANKEES HISTORY: Two big moments happened on April 20: In 1988, Claudell Washington hit a pinch-hit home run off Twins reliever Jeff Reardon for the 10,000th home run in Yankees history. In 1939, the Yankees defeated the Boston Red Sox, 2-0, on Opening Day at Yankee Stadium. An ailing Lou Gehrig went 0-for-4, while Boston's Ted Williams went 1-for-4 in his Major League debut in the only game to ever feature both players.

Then, looking ahead to tomorrow, April 21: In 2012, the Yankees were down 9-0 in the fifth inning against the Red Sox at Fenway Park before they rallied to win 15-9. This marked the fifth time that the Yankees erased a nine-run deficit to win a game. Nick Swisher hit a grand slam, and Mark Teixeira homered twice. In 1912, one hundred years before, at the Polo Grounds, the Yankees and New York Giants staged a benefit game for survivors of the Titanic. The Giants won, 11-2, as $9.425.25 is raised.

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