Nestor Cortes Denies Retaliation on Inside Pitch Against Gunnar Henderson

Two inside pitches from Orioles pitchers clipped Yankees batters. Shortly after the second, Nestor Cortes sent a pitch up and in to batter Gunnar Henderson.
Jun 18, 2024; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Nestor Cortes (65) delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 18, 2024; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Nestor Cortes (65) delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports / Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The headline is a 4-2 win for the New York Yankees over the Baltimore Orioles, but much of the interest focused on the sidebar: Inside pitches that clipped or came close to key batters from each team.

The first player to be victimized by an up-and-in pitch was Aaron Judge, who took a 94 MPH fastball from Albert Suarez in the third inning. Slow-motion replay showed the ball hitting Judge's hand in a fragile area near the pinky, creating concern as he was treated by the medical staff. Judge stayed in to run the base paths and played the field but was pinch-hit for by Trent Grisham his next turn up in the order, creating more questions over a possible injury. After the game, Judge calmed concerns by expressing that the imaging on his hand came back negative.

Next, Gleyber Torres was clipped by a 94 MPH fastball from Orioles reliever Keegan Akin in the fifth inning, which was met with a chorus of disapproving shouts from the Yankee dugout and Yankee Stadium fans alike.

The following inning, Yankees pitcher Nestor Cortes rushed a 95 MPH fastball up and in past Gunnar Henderson that narrowly missed his hand. The sequence of events made it appear as though it could have been a retaliation to the pitches that hit Judge and Torres, the latter of which happened just the previous inning.

After the game, Cortes denied the pitch inside to Henderson had anything to do with Judge and Torres, despite being, "obviously pissed off," at the inside pitches from Baltimore, a sentiment Judge shared as well.

"I worked him away the whole day... And I needed to back him off a little just because I needed to open back up the inside and that's how I got him to hit that ground ball [for the second out of the sixth inning]... Strictly pitching, trying to get outs."

It was the second to last batter Cortes faced in what would be his seventh quality start of the season.

Cortes's recollection of how he placed his pitches is correct. That at-bat, Cortes threw three pitches. The first was a cutter outside. The second was the up-and-in pitch. The third was a cutter over the outside third of the plate that Henderson hit for a tough ground ball fielded by Gleyber Torres for the out.

In Henderson's first at-bat against Cortes, all four pitches were in the outside third of the strike zone or outside balls. His second at bat, there were two pitches in the middle third of the strike zone, one in the outside third, and two outside balls.

The second game of the series between the two teams in close contention for the top of the American League East is on Wednesday night.


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Josh Wilson

JOSH WILSON

Josh Wilson is the news director of the Breaking and Trending News team at Sports Illustrated. Before joining SI in 2024, he worked for FanSided in a variety of roles, most recently as senior managing editor of the brand’s flagship site. He has also served as a general manager of Sportscasting, the sports arm of a start-up sports media company, where he oversaw the site’s editorial and business strategy. Wilson has a bachelor’s degree in mass communications from SUNY Cortland and a master’s in accountancy from the Gies College of Business at the University of Illinois. He loves a good nonfiction book and enjoys learning and practicing Polish. Wilson lives in Chicago but was raised in upstate New York. He spent most of his life in the Northeast and briefly lived in Poland, where he ate an unhealthy amount of pastries for six months.