Things just might be turning around for the Yankees. Nestor Cortes wasn’t quite at his sharpest, but the offense, perhaps spurred on by their improved play against the Rays, picked their starter up. The team launched a season-high four home runs en route to a mostly stress-free 7-2 victory in the series opener.
The Yankees came with a clear plan against former teammate JP Sears. The scouting report likely indicated that he would attack the zone early with four-seamers because the first three batters of the game made stinging contact on the first pitch they faced. Gleyber Torres was robbed of a home run right beside the right-field foul pole by Ramón Laureano, who immediately signaled for trainers and left the game holding his neck. A two-out single from Anthony Rizzo was all they had to show for the frame, but it was still an encouraging start.
Unfortunately for them, Sears appeared to catch on to their approach and made an immediate adjustment. Following that first inning he started the majority of hitters with a first-pitch sweeper for a called strike. The Yankees had no answer, with Sears at one point retiring 10 in a row until the fifth.
Much as he has since his return off the IL, Harrison Bader provided the spark to ignite the Yankees offense, leading off the fifth with his second triple in as many days. Following an Isiah Kiner-Falefa lineout, Oswaldo Cabrera yanked an 0-1 slider in off the plate down the left-field line, barely hooking it around the pole for a two-run bomb.
Cortes had a slightly sketchy first inning, allowing a pair to reach, but settled down nicely after that. He retired eight in a row to take him through three before running into his second spot of bother in the fourth. He gave up a pair of hard-hit singles, but navigated around them to hold the A’s scoreless... until the sixth.
Seemingly out of the blue, Cortes’ effectiveness disappeared faster than you can say “meltdown.” The A’s loaded the bases with no outs thanks to a Brent Rooker single, Jesús Aguilar walk, and JJ Bleday single to knock Cortes from the contest. In came Ron Marinaccio attempting to perform a Houdini, but unfortunately a pinch-hit swinging bunt single from Tony Kemp and a bases-loaded walk by Jace Peterson erased the Yankees’ lead as they headed to the bottom of the sixth knotted at 2-2.
It was alarming to see Cortes run out of gas so abruptly. Although the A’s managed some traffic in the first and fourth, Cortes appeared to be in control of every situation. He looked well on course for an excellent bounce back from his previous two hiccups, but even after the shaky sixth, this was a step in the right direction for Nasty Nestor. His final line on the night saw him go five-plus, surrendering two runs on six hits and two walks against four strikeouts on 89 pitches.
Just as hope began to ebb away, the top of the Yankees order roared into life. Torres exacted revenge for the earlier home run robbery, lasering a line drive into the seats in left to reclaim the Yankees’ advantage, 3-2. At 111.7 mph, it was the hardest hit ball of his season so far.
Rizzo followed up with his second single of the contest, paving the way for DJ LeMahieu to crush a 1-0 sweeper to right-center to put the Yankees up, 5-2, and end Sears’ outing.
Despite being nails to this point, it was clear that Marinaccio just didn’t have it today. He gave up a single and a walk to open the seventh. He exited the game having retired just two of the six batters he faced as was replaced by Ian Hamilton. True to his spectacular form through the first month, Hamilton stranded the pair of inherited runners including back-to-back filthy strikeouts to seal the frame.
This swing in momentum back in the Yankees’ favor opened the door for them to add two more insurance runs in the bottom-half, and in the most improbable of fashions at that. Jose Trevino reached on a one-out single, allowing Aaron Hicks to blast a two-run bomb into the second deck in right — his first home run and second extra-base hit of the year.
The insurance came in handy, as it allowed the rest of the bullpen to take a breather. Nick Ramirez came in for his first action since the end of April to mop up the final two innings while the Yankees cruised to a 7-2 victory.
New York will look to guarantee at least a series victory tomorrow with Clarke Schmidt set to face Drew Rucinski. Captain Aaron Judge is set to return from the IL as well. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm ET, so be sure to join us in the game thread!