Yankees’ Nestor Cortes on first-inning struggles: ‘I can’t put my team in a hole that early'

It was deja vu for Yankees fans on Tuesday night.

Nestor Cortes was on the mound and for the second straight start he put his team in an early hole, giving up three runs in the first inning. However, this time, the Yankees lineup did not back him up as they suffered their first loss of the season.

While the Yankees (5-1) have stayed afloat in the early part of the season without their ace Gerrit Cole, Cortes has not done his team favors in his first two starts. On Opening Day, a start usually reserved for Cole, Cortes gave up four runs in the first two innings.

The Yankees would come back to win that game over the Houston Astros, but Tuesday’s start, which would have been Cole’s turn in the order, was more of the same.

Cole, who traveled with the team on their West Coast road trip as he rehabs from elbow inflammation, was mic'd up for an inning on the YES broadcast and was asked about what he saw from Cortes. The reigning AL Cy Young winner said that Cortes’ pitches were catching too much plate and Arizona’s hitters were all over it.

It’s an assessment manager Aaron Boone echoed after the loss.

“He didn’t get pitches to spots where he wanted to,” Boone said of Cortes. “Just leaving a pitch more middle or on the side he wasn’t trying to go and they took advantage of every one of them.”

That first inning saw Ketel Marte hit a leadoff double before Arizona peppered four more hits to drive in the three runs.

After the game, Cortes said he believed the pitch Marte doubled on was well-located and said he threw a “good slider” later in the inning that was hit. And he believes the inning unraveled from there. But the lefty acknowledged he needs to get off to better starts.

“I thought I made a couple of good pitches, just have to do a better job of limiting damage in that first inning. Second time it’s happened already this season,” Cortes said. “Take care of the first inning and it would have been a nice night.”

To Cortes’ credit, he did settle down after the first inning and was able to pitch four more innings without giving up another run and keeping the Yankees in the game -- similar to his Opening Day start where he also pitched five innings and kept the bulk of the damage to the first inning.

Unfortunately for the Yankees, the offense ran into Zac Gallen, who allowed just three hits in six scoreless innings, and the lineup that has feasted on the opponent’s bullpen this season just could not get going.

Through a 162-game season, quiet offensive performances are going to happen, but if the team was not in an early hole things may have turned out differently.

In the first inning this season, Cortes has allowed six runs on eight hits and two walks. In the other eight innings he’s pitched, Cortes has allowed just one run, five hits and two walks.

“We’ve been coming from behind a couple of times this year already. For me, I can’t put my team in a hole that early that often,” Cortes said. “We’re going to keep working and keep going back at it, and tomorrow’s another day.”

With Cole not eligible to return until late May, Cortes will need to get off to better starts if he hopes to help the Yankees stay afloat until their ace returns.