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Yankees sweep day-night twin bill with Angels

The thing that makes the Yankees so dangerous this season is the different ways they can win. The Bombers can dominate teams with power hitting or they can get a crucial pinch hit and scrape out a one-run win. The Yanks can overwhelm a lineup with power pitching like Jameson Taillon did Thursday night, or they can beat you by mixing pitches, changing speed and fooling you like Nestor Cortes did in the afternoon game of the doubleheader.

Just ask the Angels who got swept by the Yankees in two distinctly different ways at the Stadium Thursday. Cortes, the benefactor of the Bombers’ bats and four home runs, worked without his best stuff but put up seven scoreless innings in the rain-delayed 6-1 day first game. Taillon had excellent stuff and flirted with history, taking a perfect game into the eighth and losing it and the lead quickly, before the Bombers rallied on Anthony Rizzo’s two-out, pinch-hit two-run single for a 2-1 come-from-behind win.

The Yankees (36-15) swept the three game series from the Angels (27-25), who have now lost eight straight. The Bombers have the best record in baseball and improved to 20-7 at Yankees Stadium for the best home record in baseball.

The foundation of that success is quality starting pitching.

Yankees starters have tossed at least six innings in a season-high seven straight. They posted a 1.73 ERA over their last 12 starts, allowing one or fewer earned runs in nine of those starts. Yankees starters have the second best ERA (2.67) in the majors and the best in the American League.

And coming into the season Taillon and Cortes were two of the bigger question marks. Cortes had to prove his 2021 breakout season wasn’t a fluke and Taillon was coming off just his latest surgery. Thursday, they just left the Angels questioning how to score against them.

“Two different pitchers, both very elite at what they do,” said Aaron Judge, who hit his major-league leading 19th homer in the first game. “You got Nestor from the left side that can run the fastball, you know, top zone makes it off with that cutter. He’s messing with your time and he’s dropping angles. He’s doing all sorts of things out there and makes it tough and then you got Ja-Mo. To me he’s a power pitcher. He’s gonna come out with his best stuff and he’s gonna challenge you.”

“When you have to face both of them in a series it’s tough, but to  face both in one day,” Judge added with a laugh.  “It makes for a tough day,  where you’re just trying to maybe scrap out a 1-for-4 against those guys.”

Cortes threw seven scoreless, scattering five hits and two walks. He struck out seven and lowered his ERA to 1.50. Cortes got 12 swings and misses, six with his cutter and another eight called strikes with it. He had 12 called strikes on his four-seam fastball.

Opponents are hitting just .176 (38-for-215) against him this season. He has allowed three earned runs or less in his last 19 starts, the second longest such streak in franchise history.

He outdueled the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani, who was chased after allowing four runs—including home runs to Matt Carpenter, Gleyber Torres and Aaron Judge—on eight hits and two walks. He struck out two.

“I think we’re all here trying to do a job. Obviously, everybody knows he’s very talented,” Cortes said of facing off against Ohtani. “He’s got two duties to do when he pitches and hits but I go out there and pride myself on getting the best quality I can whether it’s against Ohtani or any other person.”

Taillon allowed one run on two hits. He did not walk a batter and he struck out five—including recording his 600th strikeout in the top of the second inning.

Jared Walsh’s sharp groundball up the middle kicked off the glove of a diving Isiah Kiner-Falefa to lead off the eighth inning with a double that ended Taillon’s bid for a perfect game. Advancing to third on Brandon Marsh’s ground out to first, Walsh scored the first run of the game on Kurt Suzuki’s line drive to left that fell in front of Miguel Andujar.

“I was fired up. I mean, I was kind of kicking myself for the pitch to Suzuki. The slider got up on me a little bit and gave him an opportunity to get the barrel to it,” Taillon said. “So I was pretty sick about that. But our guys pressured their reliever to  throw strikes. And we were patient. We waited them out and then Rizzo came up with a huge hit there.

“It just felt like one of those nights where we’re gonna make it happen,” Taillon said. “But you know, glad that we’re able to grind that out there in the end.”

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