About Last Night: Yanks Drub The Phils, 8-1
By Andy Singer
April 4th, 2023
The Big Story
Sometimes, it’s nice to watch a well-played game without much drama. After a big 5th inning on a couple of levels, the Yankees had this game in their pocket. Offensively, the Yanks did a little bit of everything: played small ball with softly hit sac hits, moved runners over via steals, took their walks, and eventually hit for some power. The Yankees were on Phillies starter, Taijuan Walker, right from the get-go, with DJ LeMahieu’s lead-off triple (with an assist from Phillies CF, Brandon Marsh) setting the tone. Gleyber Torres added an exclamation mark with his 100th career homer in the 3rd inning on a full count, and Anthony Rizzo added another with a long 2-run homer that wrapped around the foul pole in RF. Nestor Cortes Jr. threw 5 solid innings while allowing just one run, and the bullpen held it together for the last 4 innings.
A Deeper Dive
Nestor Was Solid
It feels odd to say that I thought this first start of the season was really important for Nestor, particularly when we consider how good he’s been for the last year and a half, but given his recent spate of lower body injuries, including a groin injury that ended his season in the playoffs last year and a hamstring strain that sidelined him during Spring Training, I was very curious to see how Cortes Jr. would look when the lights turned on for the season. While this certainly won’t go down as one of the best starts of Nasty Nestor’s career by any stretch, he was more than good enough to get the win for his team, which is really all that matters.
In terms of pure stuff, Nasty Nestor was the exact same guy he was last season. His velocity was right around his 2022 season averages, peaking at over 94 MPH with his four seamer, and his spin rates and movement profiles were exactly what I would expect. We’ll get to this in a bit, but I also thought he moved plenty well in the field, getting over to the first base bag with surprising agility on a pitching fielding play in the early innings and backing up home on an overthrow from Franchy Cordero. I think based on what I saw last night, Nestor is healthy, and I’m not really concerned about his hamstring right now.
Now on to Nestor’s performance. Nestor threw the Phillies a curveball…um…by not really throwing any breaking balls or off-speed stuff. 90% of Cortes Jr.’s pitches were either a four-seam fastball or a cutter, and the four seamer surprisingly represented 69% of his pitches. My take was that Nestor didn’t have a ton of confidence in his change-up or slider/sweeper last night, but I suppose it’s possible that the plan against the Phillies called for a lot of fastballs. In any case, I thought Nestor’s cutter was really working, producing whiffs at a 40% clip. He also moved the ball around a fair amount:
As you can see, his command wasn’t perfect, as he allowed a few fastballs to drift into the happy zone and a few more pitches were non-competitive out of the zone, but he dotted the edges with some frequency, forcing swings and misses and soft contact when it was needed. The Yanks clearly had a pitch count on Nestor last night, which is just fine for this part of the year. Nestor mostly did Nestor-type things (and we haven’t even talked about his mustache-covered cleats), and that bodes well for the Yankees.
It’s really nice to talk about the Yankees getting the little things right. In the 5th inning, the last time this game was close, Nestor hung a 2-out fastball over the plate to JT Realmuto with Brandon Marsh on 2nd base, and Realmuto served it into RF for a single. Franchy Cordero is known for having a good arm, and he made a quick release to throw it in towards the catcher. Cordero’s throw was way long, but Nestor was backing up perfectly, and made a quick throw of his own to 3B to nab Brandon Marsh (who got hung out between 3B and home) to end the inning. It was perfect fundamental defense. See for yourself:
Later in the 9th inning, Anthony Volpe made a great backhanded stab on a hard hit ball to his right, and made a bullet throw to 2B to get the lead runner. For all of the questions about Volpe’s arm from observers in the off-season, I think he showed more than enough arm on this play and others in this game:
Gleyber Looks Great
I said before the start of the season that I viewed the 2023 season as Year 2 of the Gleyber Torres offensive rebuild. As trade rumors have floated around, I have been very hesitant to support a Torres trade, because I can still see the talent that made him one of the best young players in the sport. Last year, Torres started hitting to all fields again, but he still got pull-happy on occasion. This year, I wanted to see him take an up-the-middle and opposite field approach to the plate from the start of the season. That’s exactly the version of Gleyber Torres we’ve seen so far.
In the first inning, Gleyber took an off-speed pitch back up the middle, getting an RBI single after the ball hit the pitcher on its way through the infield. In the third inning, Torres sat back beautifully on a fastball up from Walker and took it to the opposite field for his 100th career homer. Gleyber got 2 critical RBI’s last night, and his second hit, in particular, was a thing of beauty:
Contribution Up And Down The Lineup
In the first series of the season, the Yankees looked thin once you got past the meat of the order. That wasn’t the case on Monday night. The big names, like Judge, Torres, Rizzo, and LeMahieu all contributed at the top of the order, but it was the bottom of the order that expanded the lead later on, with Jose Trevino and Franchy Cordero adding big hits of their own to the festivities. The Yankees need this to continue if they want to be successful in October.
Player Of The Game
Gleyber’s 100th career homer and 2 critical RBI’s lock up this award for him. He also got on-base in every plate appearance.
Gleyber Torres: 2-2, 2 R, 2 H, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 3 BB
DJLM: 2-5, 2 R, 1 3B
Aaron Judge: 1-4, 1 R, 1 BB
Anthony Rizzo: 1-4, 1 HR, 2 RBI
Jose Trevino: 2-4, 1 RBI
Nestor Cortes Jr.: 5 IP, 7 H, 3 K, 0 BB, 1 ER
Bullpen: 4 shutout innings, including 2.1 good innings from Jonathan Loaisiga and Clay Holmes
Better To Forget
Giancarlo Stanton’s plate appearances didn’t look great last night, nor did Aaron Hicks’. Neither got a hit, though at least one of Stanton’s outs was productive.
Odds And Ends
Can we stop renaming pitches? Separating sweeper from slider is just asinine; a sweeper is just a good slider, there’s no difference in intent or grip really, so I don’t see the point in distinguishing. Last night, David Cone talked about the “slambio,” a combination between a slider and a change-up. I guess I was ahead of my time – I threw the described pitch, but we all referred to it as a “cut-change.” It just feels silly to rename or reclassify pitches unnecessarily. OK, I’ll get off my lawn now.
The Yankees were very clearly the better team last night. Let’s hope it continues tonight.
Looking To Tomorrow
The Yanks take on the Phillies at 7:05. Domingo German gets his first start of the season against Matt Strahm. One more win, and we call that a winning streak!