Gerrit Cole saves Nester Cortes’ flawless inning ball from certain disaster

Yankees ace Gerrit Cole understands his story. Thankfully, he thought on his feet after Kyle Higashioka tried to gift Nestor Cortes’ spotless innings ball.

Cortes had 12 strikeouts in just five innings of work — a remarkable feat for a pitcher not known for Ks, either backwards or forwards on the scorecard.

That included a so-called flawless inning in the fourth, in which Cortes beat the three Orioles batters in just nine pitches. Perhaps not understanding what was happening in the game he caught, Higashioka gave the ball to fans above the dugout, as is often the case when players run off the field.

However, Cole quickly reversed course and asked for the ball back from the O’s fans seated next to the dugout. Cortes should want his spotless inning ball as a souvenir.

What in a flawless inning?

According to the baseball reference, a clean inning looks like this:

“A clean inning is when a pitcher hits all three batsmen he faces in an inning with the minimum number of pitches possible – nine. The strikeouts can be either swinging or caught looking, and foul balls can be involved. The purest form of the feat would be to have nine swings and misses. The name for the feat did not come into wide use until the 21st century. Once extremely rare – there were none between 1929 and 1952 – spotless innings became more common from the 1990s and developments in the use of relief pitchers meant that most of these pitchers were only used for one inning. During that inning they can throw as hard as they can knowing they don’t have to reserve anything.”

How many flawless innings in mlb history

Per Baseball Almanac, the last clean inning came on September 12, 2021 and was pitched by Max Scherzer, then of the Dodgers. That was the 103rd clean inning in MLB history.

That means Corte’s achievement was #104. It was the 41st in American League history. Gerrit Cole saves Nester Cortes’ flawless inning ball from certain disaster

John Verrall

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