Aaron Boone was “thrilled” to have left-hander Nestor Courts on the mound to start a crucial Game 4 for the Yankees against the Houston Astros in the ALCS on Sunday night at Yankee Stadium. But Cortes’ night didn’t last long as he was pulled in the third inning with a left groin injury after giving up a game-tying three-run homer to Jeremy Pena.

Cortes’ fastball dropped to 88-89 in the second inning but he faced just two above the minimum, giving up a single to Pena in the first and walking Kyle Tucker in the second. They started the third inning with a 3-0 lead.

It was the same injury that sent Cortes to the injured list in August. On the TBS broadcast, manager Aaron Boone said Cortes has been dealing with an injury since his first postseason start on Oct. 14 against the Cleveland Guardians in the ALDS.

“He actually did it, I think, in his first start against Cleveland,” Boone said after the game. “It wasn’t as important as earlier in the year when he went to IL, and he actually did well with that game, and then obviously came back on three days rest and was good. , today was good, and then I think he had – I don’t think he was in pain or anything like that. But he just, we suddenly lost speed and more importantly, the command. See, because there are times when he’ll fall off the pace and that’s not a big red flag. But obviously having two guys out there in a row is unfortunate.

He walked Martin Maldonado to third. The trainers came out to meet him before the second batter, Jose Alteo, also drew a walk. It was the first time Cortes had walked back-to-back hitters all season. He then hung a slider to Peña, who launched it into the left-field seats to tie the game.

Wandy Peralta then came out of the bullpen to replace him and the Astros scored a run to put him up 4-3. Cortes was charged with three earned runs on two hits, three walks and two strikeouts in just over two innings.

Cortes was 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA in the postseason coming into that game and became the Yankees’ unlikely ace this season when he went 12-4 with a 2.44 ERA. The mustachioed right-hander, who was born in Cuba and raised in Florida, was originally drafted by the Yankees in 2013 but was claimed by the Baltimore Orioles in the 2018 Rule 5 draft.

He was returned to the Yankees in 2018, traded to the Seattle Mariners in 2019 and became a free agent in 2020. The Yankees signed him before the 2021 season.

Houston completed the sweep with a 6-5 win over the Yankees. The Astros will advance to face the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series.

“The bullpen came in and was great and gave us a chance there,” Boone said. “But, yeah, looks bad for Nestor.”

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