KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Yankees offense deservedly caught the eye in the seven-game winning streak they brought to Saturday’s game against the Royals, but they didn’t do it alone. .
While the roster and offensive approach underwent a drastic overhaul in the offseason, the Yankees didn’t add much to their pitching staff — either staff or coaches.
Where they improved in that aspect of the game was behind the plate, where Jose Trevino and Kyle Higashioka formed a strong tandem, after Gary Sanchez was dropped to Minnesota.
And just like a year ago, the results were good – with some unlikely outliers.
Most important early on was Gerrit Cole, who started against the Royals on Saturday at Kauffman Stadium, after a promising outing against Cleveland, in which he pitched 6 ²/₃ scoreless innings, struck out nine and soothed some concerns following an ugly first three starts of the season.
He lowered his ERA from 6.35 to 4.00, still the highest among the Yankees’ five starters.
This is where the other outlier comes in.
After another impressive start, Nestor Cortes continues to prove that last year’s emergence was no fluke.
Although he didn’t have any good things, the southpaw limited the Royals to one unearned run in five innings. The performance actually bumped up Cortes’ ERA to 1.31, which is still third-best in the American League.
When asked what he likes most about the way Cortes throws, Cole said, “Creativity is probably my favorite part of his game. He has a really good understanding of what his business does and what a hitter sees. He has a unique talent for executing throws at a high level and [use] different rhythms and different deliveries. When he really gets into that groove to blend all of those elements together, it’s extremely unique. It’s fun to watch.
Manager Aaron Boone went in a different direction when describing what sets Cortes apart.
“He’s competitive,” Boone said. “I love the way he competes. You can tell he really enjoys playing the game. There’s a fearlessness to the way he plays the game [and] a joy at the way he plays the game. He wants the ball.
Boone also noted that on more than one occasion, Cortes volunteered to enter the field when the Yankees were low on position players late in the game.
That aspect was on full display when he dived headfirst to beat Goalies’ Steven Kwan first on a pitch against first baseman Anthony Rizzo.
He’s also second in the AL with 12.19 strikeouts in nine innings, behind only Shane McClanahan of the Rays.
Cortes leads a staff that has an AL-leading 2.84 ERA, and a rotation that entered Saturday with a combined 2.88 ERA, behind only the Twins (2.84) in the AL.
The rotation – along with the entire staff – will face a more rigorous test once they leave Kansas City after this weekend and face the powerful Blue Jays roster.
The Yankees shared a four-game series with Toronto in the Bronx earlier this month and the staff held up well, allowing just nine points in the four games – with a pair of shutouts.
Since then, the Yankees haven’t faced a team with a winning record and the Blue Jays’ number to be near the top of the AL East all season.
New York Post