After another impressive outing, Nestor Cortes was modest when asked about being one of the best pitchers in the game when he said: "I just try to do my part."
Doing his part means owning the lowest earned run average in the majors and Cortes gets another chance at continuing his remarkable run Friday night when the New York Yankees host the Chicago White Sox.
Cortes (2-1, 1.35 ERA), who was New York's 36th-round pick in the 2013 draft, has allowed two earned runs or fewer in 16 straight starts to match teammate Luis Severino (2018) for the second-longest streak in team history. The record is 20 straight starts by Russ Ford (1910-1911).
Cortes' last two starts are among the most impressive of his 23 career starts. On May 9, Cortes came within five outs of a no-hitter against the Texas Rangers and he followed it up Sunday afternoon by allowing one run and three hits in a career-high eight innings of a 5-1 win at Chicago.
The left-hander is approaching the one-year anniversary of his second stint with the Yankees, with whom he was 5-1 with a 5.67 ERA in 33 appearances in 2019. After struggling immensely in five relief outings for the Seattle Mariners in the pandemic 2020 season, he returned to the Yankees on May 30 and owns a 2.44 ERA in 133 innings since.
"The chances I got, and the ability that I can go out there and pitch every five days, has been incredible for me," Cortes said. "As long as I can go out there and compete and give my team a chance, I'm happy."
Cortes' performance Sunday marked the fifth time he allowed one run or less this season and it gave him a slight lead over Houston's Justin Verlander in the AL ERA race after reaching enough innings to qualify.
"He's been one of the best pitchers in the game, not only this year, but even going back to last year," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "He's been consistent with us, reliable and continues to get better and better."
Cortes is pitching after a rare loss for the Yankees, who rallied to tie the game in the ninth inning before Lucas Luetge allowed a game-winning, three-run homer to Anthony Santander in Thursday's 9-6 loss at Baltimore. It ended New York's four-game winning streak and was its fifth loss in 28 games.
The White Sox, who lost three of four to the Yankees last weekend, are 10-6 in their past 16 games and won three of five in Kansas City. Chicago ended the series with a 14-hit attack in Thursday's 7-4 win.
Luis Robert hit a two-run homer and drove in four runs Thursday and is hitting .373 (28-for-75) with four homers and 14 RBIs in his past 18 games. Tim Anderson also drove in two runs, hitting .390 (30-for-77) in his past 18 contests.
"He's as special as our fans think he is," Chicago manager Tony LaRussa said of Anderson. "The more people around the country that know it, the better."
Dallas Keuchel (2-2, 5.54), who took a no-decision against the Yankees on Saturday by tossing five scoreless innings, opens the series and is 4-4 with a 2.06 ERA in 10 career starts against New York.
Keuchel also owns a 2.70 ERA in his past four starts since getting tagged for 10 runs in an 11-1 loss at Cleveland on April 20.
--Field Level Media