Game 123: Luke Voit and Nestor Cortes Carry The Yanks to an Easy Win

You know, I’m enjoying the last few months of the Yankees season a bit more than the first few. What about you? With tonight’s easy 10-2 victory over the Twins, the Yanks improved to 71-52. They’ve won 30 of their last 41 games, by the way. That’s a 119-win pace over 162 games. It’ll do and I’ll take it. This was not just a thrashing of the Twins, though it was also that. It was what felt like the first easy win of those 30 recent victories.

I’m not sure about you, but it was a relief to watch. Anyway, let’s get to the takeaways, which are straight and to the point.

It’s Nasty Nestor Cortes’ World, And We’re Just Living in It. It is tough to think of a more fun, out-of-the-blue success story than Nestor Cortes Jr. Andrew Velazquez perhaps, but Nasty Nestor is really out here pitching like a damn top-of-the-rotation starter for several weeks. Tonight, all Cortes did was throw 7 innings of 4-hit, 2-run baseball. He struck out 7 and walked just 2 in the process. 7 innings! This sport is so damn wild sometimes.

The game plan was pretty obvious, too: fastballs up and away to righties, and sliders in on the hands. He threw the changeup on the outer half of the plate to righties, too. Look at the execution:

Once again, a steady diet of fastballs (45%) helped Cortes through the day. That pitch has, rather amazingly, been one of baseball’s best since Cortes embarked on this journey. Tonight was no different. The only blemish against him came in the 6th inning, when he gave up a 2-run homer to Josh Donaldson. He also struck Donaldson out twice, though, so that was nice. Love it when the Yankees get that guy out. Always have and I always will.

Importantly, Cortes is also just a ton of fun to watch pitch. He is the sort of player that keeps you on the edge of your feet with every wind up. Look at his release points tonight:

Wild. Honestly wild. Love to watch him pitch. Here is some of the video for those of you who may have missed the game:

The Best Yankees’ Lineup Contains Luke Voit. For one reason or another, Yankee fans seem dead set on getting rid of Luke Voit. He was not taken seriously even after 2018, blamed for being hurt in 2019, and trade speculation fodder after 2020’s monster season. I’ll admit that it made more sense to trade Luke for the 48 hours post-Rizzo trade before the deadline, but not that much. Why? The dude can flat out hit.

Consider his MLB ranks among players with 75% or more of their games at 1B since the start of the 2018 season and at least 1,000 PA:

  • OPS+: 126 (2nd behind Freddie Freeman)
  • Slugging Percentage: .538 (3rd, 1st in AL)
  • OBP: .364 (5th, 1st in AL)
  • OPS: .883 (3rd, 1st in AL)

There are flaws in his game, sure – he’s not a great defender and he gets hurt a lot – but I have always believed that Yankee fans don’t really appreciate Voit’s production enough. He’s been about as good as it gets offensively from 1B since his NYY debut – a position that had been a black hole for New York since Teixeira hung ’em up.

On top of that, Voit is very clearly a team leader. He is vocal, he calls the team out when they need to, and he’s blunt about himself and his own performance. We saw that this week when he basically told the Yankees they had no business benching him. (I know this was controversial. For me, though, I loved it.) And what has he done since? He has absolutely raked. Tonight was no different.

Voit went 4-5 in this one, scoring 2 runs and driving in 4 on a HR and a double. He was single-handedly responsible for 6 Yankee runs. It was a damn good performance. Voit kicked it all off in the first inning, when he came to the plate with the bases loaded and one man out. This was a situation in which the Yankees were not coming through even six weeks ago:

That put the Yankees ahead for good. Here’s what Voit did a few innings later, unsatisfied with merely one RBI hit:

Then, finally, Voit came up again in the 7th inning. He was still unsatisfied, so he popped an opposite-field homer just to remind everyone of what he can do at the dish:

There is a lot to be said about the next few weeks for the Yankees. They’re within striking distance of the AL East and have played themselves into the playoffs. Should they hold on to that spot, it is becoming abundantly clear that their best lineup includes Luke Voit.

Leftovers

  • Well, would you look at that: an easy, blowout win. The Yankees took the lead in the first inning and did not look back for even a minute. It was an 8-run lead in the 9th inning, which allowed them to use Brody Koerner for the final frame. It’s a game they desperately needed, and it was a legitimate relief to watch. A stress free game! What a concept.
  • A nice night for Brett Gardner, who logged two hits and an RBI in two AB. He did get hit in his third and final plate appearance. The Yankees took him out of the game after, but I hope it was precautionary. Gardy has been playing really well lately, by the way. Let’s not forget it.
  • it was also a nice night for DJ LeMahieu. He hit the ball hard a few times, including his first home run since June 26. He added another hit, walked, drove in 2, and scored 3 times. That’s the DJ LeMahieu we’ve all been missing.
  • It’s been a rough stretch for Joey Gallo, who was 0-4 with 3 Ks and a walk. If the team was struggling, fans would be all over him, but the team is winning so they’re not. I’m good with that, because Gallo is going to be a huge piece of the team down the stretch.
  • Joely Rodriguez looked good in his one inning of work in the 8th, too, striking out 2 on 13 pitches. Good stuff there.

The Yankees will try to win this series tomorrow when they take on the Twins again. That will be at 1:05 pm and Gerrit Cole (11-6, 3.04 ERA) will take on Kenta Maeda (6-4, 4.41 ERA) in that one. Enjoy the rest of your night, everyone. The Yankees sure are making it easy these days.

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14 Comments

  1. byomtov

    It is well worth reading the linked article titled “An Appreciation of Nestor Cortes.”

    He was actually left unprotected in the Rule 5 draft twice, and claimed once, and returned, by Orioles. The article, from 2019, suggests his outstanding performance, after a poor start, might be a flash in the pan:

    “Now, nobody is pretending that this is the real Cortes. It wouldn’t be hard for me to explain to you why there’s no way the young lefty can keep this up. I could easily cite Statcast and various projection systems in order to bring him down.”

    Maybe not.

  2. MikeD

    Yankee fans do not hate Luke Voit. Bobby, I think that’s more your narrative that, granted, is probably driven by what you see on Twitter.

    Reminds me how for years some of my non-Yankee baseball fan friends asked me why do Yankee fans hate Brett Gardner. I looked at them quizzically, gently breaking the news to them that Yankee fans love Brett Gardner. Yet, in fairness to them, if you go by what you see on Twitter, you might think the Yankee fanbase hates Brett Gardner, although father time has caught him and this should be his final season. He will get a standing ovation his final AB by a fanbase that loves him. Never judge a fanbase by Twitter or sports-talk radio. It’s the minority loudmouths that get the most attention. That’s similar with Voit. He’s very popular. Do you hear the Luuke chants every time he comes to the plate? He doesn’t get boo’d. He gets Luuuuuke’d! Yet, there have been calls to trade him not to a get rid of him, but perhaps use him to improve other areas of the team. It was clear the Yankees were too right-handed this past offseason, and 1B is a position easier to fill, so why not do a very Rays things and try trading a player at peak value? Cashman will always say he won’t trade a player at low value. Fine, but why not think about trading a player at peak value if it will improve the team?

    Voit can hit. His main problem is he is not a good fielder and that he has become highly injury prone. I’m happy he’s still here, I’m not looking to trade him, but I won’t have any issue if they move him to better the team if the offseason. He is not a must-keep.

    • (a) This isn’t my narrative. Direct quote from the above article: “For one reason or another, Yankee fans seem dead set on getting rid of Luke Voit.” Sorry, but I didn’t write this article. We actually agree…I don’t think that Yankee’s fans want to get rid of him. But this article seems to think we do, and my comment is in response to this article.

      (b) I don’t have a Twitter account and can’t view anything on Twitter. If I try then it just asks me to create an account. If there’s a Bobby Swink on Twitter then it’s not me.

      (c) Trading him at the deadline would have been the definition of trading a player at low value. He hasn’t been healthy or good all year.

      (d) I’m also fine with moving on from him if we get something valuable in return. But I’m not “dead set on getting rid of Luke Voit.”

    • Haha…sorry, I thought you were addressing this to me since I was the last to comment. My mistake. I see now who it was directed to, and we actually agree.

      • MikeD

        Right. After I wrote my note, I almost also posted under yours to say we’re in agreement on the Voit narrative. I can see, however, why you might have thought I was directing at you since the author’s name is also Bobby and my post directly followed yours.

        Holding and playing Voit made the most sense, so I remember being relieved at the trade deadline hearing he remained. He can show he’s healthy and potentially restore his full value. Also, with the likelihood of the Universal DH being adopted, the market for his services should increase significantly this off season, so unless the Yankees non-tender him (don’t see it as it’s not a Yankee thing to do), they should get back more in a return if they decide to trade him. It was curious that the Yankees were willing to trade him, while at the same time noting Rizzo was basically a rental. Sometimes, the best deals are the ones you don’t make.

  3. With Rizzo now on this team, the Yankees best lineup includes Luke Voit at DH, not 1st base. Stanton has got to play the field in order for the Yankees to put their best hitting lineup together.

    I get irritated with the “Yankee’s fans wanted to get rid of Luke Voit” narrative. What Yankee’s fans want is for Luke Voit to stay healthy and hit like he’s capable, which he hadn’t done all year until Rizzo showed up. To trust that he was going to do that going forward when recent history tells us that’s not what we should expect would have been foolish on Cashman and upper-management’s part. They need a productive 1st baseman who can play every day…especially these last two months when they really needed to make a run…and the confidence that the guy for that job was Luke Voit had deteriorated over the first several months of the season. I’m not sure that fans wanting to get rid of Voit is accurate or even fair. We wanted the Voit we’ve seen the past week and wasn’t getting.

    On a side note, is this team better with Velazquez at short? Give me Urshela all day over Odor, but I’m not overly excited to get Torres back. There’s something to be said for a good defensive shortstop who may be your worst hitter. Torres may return and still be the worst hitter in this lineup and play bad defense. It’s arguable.

  4. Nahkadinga

    Good job Luke, build up that trade value, might get a decent return especially if the NL goes to the DH..He’ll get hurt and mss half the season, but he’s still cheap enough to keep, but sell high…..Boston also has a cupcake scheduled the rest of August, Yanks can’t take their foot off the gas

  5. Dani

    I remember being called an idiot for not wanting to dump Voit to save money. How the turntables 😀

    • DZB

      I totally agree since I was on the same side of the debate – but my argument was also that they have no 1B to start next season, and there is no reason to believe that Rizzo is the savior at that position given he’ll be another year older. Obviously the issue with Voit is staying healthy, not performance.

      • madrugador

        It doesn’t seem that the Yanks value defense to the same extent that they do offense. They probably figured on moving DJ to first base next season if they could have traded Voit.
        Attempting to trade Voit was misguided though. I believe he has qualities that make him valuable. He’s got grit and he cares about success. With those qualities, his talent and not becoming a free agent until 2025, he should be kept around until age or injury catch up to him.

        • Bobby

          I agree. I know sometimes the soft skills get laughed at in some baseball circles but I 100% agree with this assessment. It matters.

    • Nahkadinga

      I’ve been called an idiot for a lot less

  6. Alemadgt

    Tampa lost!

    • DZB

      And they have two more tough match-ups against Chicago over the next two days (especially Archer against Lopez tomorrow), while the NYY have some favorable match-ups against the Twins. With some luck it could easily be down to a two game race by Monday, which would feel a heck of a lot better than being five back on Friday morning. So nice to see Tampa finally having to play a decent opponent!

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