ST. PETERSBURG — Nestor Cortes had thrown 105 pitches over eight nearly spotless innings on Thursday night at Tropicana Field. As he took a brief moment to exhale atop the visitors’ dugout bench, the left-hander’s brimming confidence suggested that there was more in the tank.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone ambled over for a temperature check, surely expecting that Cortes was game for more. Indeed, Cortes took a crack at his first career complete game, settling for his fourth victory and a standing ovation from a friendly road crowd in New York’s 7-2 win over the Rays.
“Once the adrenaline is running, you feel like you’re invincible,” Cortes said. “When I went out there for the ninth and all those fans were cheering, I had goosebumps going out there, for sure. It was pretty cool.”
Cortes has enjoyed a couple of double-digit-strikeout performances this year, building what Boone has referred to as “the legend of Nestor.” This was not one of those outings. Cortes wobbled a bit in the first inning, permitting a couple of hits, then never seemed to overpower Tampa Bay — he just got outs, plenty of them.
“It’s special. It’s fun to watch,” said outfielder Aaron Judge. “He competes; he goes out there, and he’s not afraid of anybody in the lineup. You’ve got to like that. It’s fun to play behind.”
Shaving his ERA to 1.70 — the lowest by a Yankees pitcher through nine starts…