After dinger dings off foul pole, it all unravels for Yanks

Cortes' strong outing turns sour in O's 8-run 7th, snapping New York's 5-game win streak

May 25th, 2023

NEW YORK -- Nestor Cortes stood near the back of the mound, his hands pressed upon his knees, seemingly stunned at the turn of events. The Yankees had been cruising through six innings, counting outs until they could shake hands on the infield, and now their fortunes were rapidly freefalling in a nightmarish frame.

Cortes heard his final pitch clang off the right-field foul pole for a three-run Adam Frazier homer, then watched from the dugout as the Bombers’ usually effective bullpen couldn’t stanch the bleeding. The Orioles rode an eight-run seventh to hand the Yankees a 9-6 loss on Wednesday evening at Yankee Stadium, snapping New York’s five-game win streak.

“It happened quick,” Cortes said. “Our bullpen has been incredible, so to see that is a little odd, but it’s going to happen. I felt really good about our bullpen coming in and shutting it down. It didn’t happen today, so you’ve got to live with it and come back tomorrow to fight again.”

had homered twice and had also gone deep to support Cortes, who limited the Birds to a Ryan Mountcastle homer through six innings, carrying a four-run lead into the seventh. That seemed to be a comfortable enough cushion for Yankees manager Aaron Boone, who liked Cortes’ chances of stealing a few more outs.

“This is a tough loss and everything, but one of the things [to take away] from it is another strong outing against a good team for Nestor,” Boone said. “I know it goes bad there a little bit at the end, but take a step back and look at how he threw the ball, especially coming off his last one. There’s encouraging things there.”  

With key relievers Ron Marinaccio, Michael King and Wandy Peralta all unavailable, Boone planned to allow Cortes three batters before turning the game over to the bullpen. One way or another, his night would end with Frazier’s at-bat.

But even though Cortes pitched around a single against the top of the Baltimore lineup in the sixth inning, the third time through the batting order has been a persistent bugaboo for Cortes, who recently described it as “the story of my season.”

Sure enough, Cortes’ touch evaporated to begin the seventh, as the lefty walked Anthony Santander before Austin Hays scorched a 109.6 mph liner past shortstop Anthony Volpe, a ball that Boone observed was “that close” from setting up a potential double play.

Cortes left a fastball up that Frazier belted high toward the second deck, kissing the pole to make it a one-run game.

“The ball Frazier hit, I thought it was well-located for who I was facing and what my heater does,” Cortes said. “He was getting beat all day with the heater, so I feel like he probably wanted to cheat a little bit on it. It was more middle than I probably wanted it, but still in a good spot. If that ball is two inches away, he probably pops it up.”

Gunnar Henderson touched Jimmy Cordero for a pinch-hit, two-run double that gave the O’s their first lead of the evening.

“He’s been really good for us, and obviously tonight was not his night,” Boone said of Cordero.

After a rain delay of one hour and 36 minutes, the Yankees’ first of the year, Torres opened the scoring with a two-run homer in the third inning. He added a solo shot in the fifth, picking up his early career theme of pounding Baltimore pitching; Torres has hit 20 career homers against the O’s, eight more than any other opponent.

Kiner-Falefa slugged a two-run shot in the fifth, with all three Yankees homers coming off Orioles starter Tyler Wells. Power has been a consistent marker of New York’s strong May performance, during which it has hit 44 home runs.

“I still thought we were going to come back,” Kiner-Falefa said. “It’s a good feeling on this team, even though we were down late. I never felt out of the game.”

Baltimore’s bullpen made sure they didn't, combining for four innings of one-run relief. Anthony Rizzo contributed an RBI single in the seventh, a frame where the Yankees left the bases loaded.

“Obviously, this isn’t the Baltimore from when I was there,” said Cortes, who pitched briefly for the last-place O’s in 2018. “They’re a good ballclub. I feel like they’re well-coached and they’re trending upwards. It’s going to be a good fight this season.”