In order for the Yankees to mount their fourth comeback win in the past five games Saturday, it took an unlikely hero to steady the boat.
Nestor Cortes Jr. answered the call, coming on in relief to escape a jam for the first of three scoreless innings he pitched in the Yankees’ 7-5 win over the Athletics.
“Huge,” manager Aaron Boone said, noting that Cortes had just been awarded the championship belt in the clubhouse for the game’s most valuable player. “He kept us in the game and gave us a chance.”
Cortes, who was called up from Triple-A on May 30, relieved Domingo German in the fifth inning with no outs and runners on the corners in a game the Yankees trailed 4-1. The left-hander struck out Ramon Laureano and Matt Chapman, then got Sean Murphy to fly out to end the threat.
After a quick sixth inning, Cortes stranded two more runners in the seventh by striking out Chapman, allowing the Yankees to come back and win it.
“Basically, come in and trying to set the fire a little down,” Cortes said. “It was a great team win.”
Gary Sanchez hit third for the first time since Sept. 10, 2019, and made himself at home, going 1-for-3 with a home run and a walk. The catcher improved to 20-for-61 (.328) over his past 18 games, which earned him a promotion in the lineup. Boone said “we’ll see” when asked if he would stay there.
Boone attributed Sanchez’s offensive improvements to getting rid of his leg kick, lauding him for having the “courage” to make a sizable adjustment in the middle of the season.
“You look at his lower half now and how quiet it is and how balanced he is, it looks a lot different than it did a month ago, when he had that big leg kick,” Boone said. “I think that was really destroying a lot of his timing and causing him to miss some pitches he should be on.”
A week after leaving a rehab start early with a grade 2 groin strain, Luis Severino said he was feeling “better” before he played catch from 60 feet and did agility drills at Yankee Stadium. The right-hander, coming back from Tommy John surgery, was initially set to return to the Yankees by early July before the groin injury pushed that timeline back by a month.
Chad Green struck out the side on 13 pitches in the eighth inning.
“Best outing of the year for him, the way he threw the ball,” Boone said.
1B Luke Voit (right oblique strain), who went 3-for-4 with a home run Friday on his rehab assignment with Double-A Somerset, is expected to be activated in time for Tuesday’s game against the Royals. … RHP Darren O’Day (right rotator cuff strain) threw a bullpen Saturday and could start a rehab assignment Tuesday.