New York Yankees Game 1 Starter: Gerrit Cole or Nestor Cortes? The Case For and Against

Having secured a first-round bye, the New York Yankees await the Tampa Bay Rays and Cleveland Guardians AL Wild Card series winner. Yankees manager Aaron Boone will have a tough decision over whom to start on the mound for Game 1 of the ALDS, with Gerrit Cole and Nestor Cortes both viable options.

Below, I have outlined the case for and against each player before giving my final verdict.

Let us commence!

Gerrit Cole:

Case For: The postseason is an entirely different animal, and Cole is by far New York’s most experienced starter. The 32-year-old has pitched in 14 career playoff games, boasting a strong 2.93 ERA, proving he can handle the pressures of October baseball.

Case Against: Cole’s 2022 numbers are not what you’d expect from a player making $36 million annually. While the hard-throwing righty led the Majors in strikeouts (257), his 3.50 ERA ranked 30th among qualified starters, not to mention surrendering an MLB-worst 33 home runs. Cole also enters the postseason far from peak form, allowing three or more earned runs in four of his past five regular season outings.

Nestor Cortes:

Case For: Cortes has performed like an ace, posting a 12-4 record with a 2.44 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and a 163:38 strikeout-to-walk ratio across 158.1 innings pitched (28 starts). That kind of reliability is what every manager looks for in a Game 1 starter.

Case Against: While the 27-year-old has enjoyed a breakout campaign, he has zero postseason experience. Thus, trusting Cortes to deliver a Game 1 victory could be a risky proposition, particularly under the bright lights of Yankee Stadium. 

Final Verdict:

Ultimately, I think Boone goes purely by the numbers and hands the ball to Cortes, with Cole drawing the start in Game 2.