Aaron Boone was “thrilled” to have right-hander Nestor Cortes on the mound to start a crucial Game 4 for the Yankees against the Houston Astros in the ALCS on Sunday night at Yankee Stadium. But Cortes’ night didn’t last long as he was removed in the third inning with a left groin injury right after giving up a game-tying three-run homer to Jeremy Peña.
Cortes’ fastball velocity dropped to 88-89 in the second inning but he had only faced two above the minimum, giving up a single to Peña in the first and walking Kyle Tucker in the second. He started the third inning with a 3-0 lead. This was the same injury that sent Cortes to the injured list in August.
He walked Martin Maldonado to lead off the third. The trainers came out to visit him before the second batter, Jose Altuve, who also drew a walk. It was the first time Cortes had walked back-to-back hitters all season. He then hung a slider up to Peña, who launched it into the left field seats to tie the game.
Wandy Peralta then came out of the bullpen to replace him and the Astros took a run off of him to go up 4-3. Cortes was charged with three earned runs on two hits, walked three and struck out two in a little more than two innings.
Cortes was 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA in the postseason coming into this game and became the Yankees’ unlikely ace this season when he went 12-4 with a 2.44 ERA. The mustachioed right-hander who was born in Cuba and raised in Florida was originally drafted by the Yankees in 2013 but claimed by the Baltimore Orioles in the Rule 5 Draft in 2018.
He was returned to the Yankees in 2018, was traded to the Seattle Mariners in 2019 and became a free agent in 2020. The Yankees signed him ahead of the 2021 season.
Houston has a chance to eliminate the Yankees and clinch a World Series berth in Game 4. The winner of the series will face the Philadelphia Phillies, who won the National League pennant Sunday.