‘Legend of Nestor grows’ Cortes’ tag play draws Yankees’ praise

Nestor Cortes has impressed his teammates with his pitching, but on Saturday, he added a dash of athleticism and fielding prowess to his growing résumé.

The Yankees left-hander turned in another strong start in the 5-4 win over the Guardians, with his highlight of the day coming when he sprinted to first base, caught a throw from Anthony Rizzo and dove to tag out a runner in the fourth inning.

“The legend of Nestor grows,” manager Aaron Boone said with a grin.

Steven Kwan hit the sharp ground ball to Rizzo, who was well off the bag at first base when he fielded it. Cortes got a late break covering first, but Rizzo threw him a bullet. In one fluid motion, Cortes caught the throw and launched into an all-out dive to get the tag down in time for the out.

“I knew the only way to get him out was to dive,” Cortes said. “I’m happy it worked.

“Under this body, there’s a guy that’s athletic,” he added with a laugh.

Nestor Cortes, right, dives to beat Guardians’ Steven Kwan to first base for an out during the fourth inning of the Yankees’ 5-4 win.

The play left Cortes with a dirty jersey on the mound the rest of the game, a fitting scene for the underdog pitcher who has become an integral part of the Yankees’ rotation.

In three starts, Cortes owns a 1.15 ERA with 25 strikeouts in 15 ²/₃ innings.

Joey Gallo made progress in getting the crowd off his back Saturday.

After striking out in his first at-bat, drawing more boos after the crowd had gotten on him plenty Friday night, Gallo singled and scored in the fifth inning and later drew a walk. It marked the first time since April 11 that he reached base twice in a game.

The left fielder is still batting just 6-for-44 without an extra-base hit in 15 games to begin the season, but his at-bats at least looked more competitive on Saturday.

“Just try as best we can to keep him focused and get him comfortable going into a game,” Boone said before the game. “Not obsessively chasing that result. Just focus on having a good, quality at-bat. If he does that, we’re going to get a really productive player.”

Asked if Gallo had been “obsessively chasing that result,” Boone didn’t deny it.

“I think it happens,” he said. “[That’s] why I just want, early in the season, guys to get settled in. Because that scoreboard’s all we go on early in the season sometimes and it becomes noisy. This time of year, when you’re off to a little bit of a slow start, you do chase the results more.”

After starting the season 1-for-17, Isiah Kiner-Falefa has become the Yankees’ hottest hitter, batting 13-for-30 with three doubles — including the game-tying two-bagger in the ninth inning Saturday — in his last nine games.

“I’m just having fun,” Kiner-Falefa said. “That was one thing I didn’t do at the beginning of the year. I was a little scared, I don’t know why, timid. But now I’m getting my swing off and I feel good.”

DJ LeMahieu extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a single in the eighth inning.


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