CHICAGO — The Yankees still have some work to do to make sure they’re still playing in October.
If they get there, though, they’re showing how dangerous they might be — if not also stress-inducing.
With Sunday’s 5-3 win at Guaranteed Rate Field, the Yankees were just a Zack Britton implosion away to finishing the season series 6-0 against the first-place White Sox.
Of course, the Yankees figure to look considerably different both down the stretch and during the playoffs.
After Luke Voit gave the Yankees a four-run cushion with a two-run homer in the top of the ninth, Lucas Luetge entered in the bottom of the inning and walked Yoan Moncada and gave up a single to Luis Robert to start.
Shortstop Andrew Velazquez made an excellent catch for the first out before Zack Collins hit a fly ball to deep right that Aaron Judge couldn’t track down. It went for a run-scoring double, and Wandy Peralta came in.
Peralta then allowed an RBI infield hit to Tim Anderson before Cesar Hernandez hit into a game-ending double play, as the Yankees moved to 13 games over .500 for the first time since the end of the 2019 season.
And it happened in part because of another excellent start from Nestor Cortes Jr., who allowed just one run over six innings.
The awkward-throwing lefty has been effective in three of his last four starts, even as his role going forward is unclear with the potential return of Gerrit Cole, Jordan Montgomery and Domingo German soon — and perhaps others like Luis Severino before the end of the year.
And the offense got a pair of two-run homers, the first from Rougned Odor and the other by Voit, while Stephen Ridings, Jonathan Loaisiga, Luetge and Peralta finished the game on the mound.
Velazquez helped prevent a potential ninth-inning rally with a terrific running catch in shallow right field on a Jake Lamb pop-up that seemed destined to fall in for a bloop hit for the first out of the inning.
The lineup was especially effective against Chicago right-hander Lucas Giolito, who needed 101 pitches to get through four innings.
It started in the first, as the Yankees forced Giolito to throw 33 pitching in the scoreless frame.
The Yankees started off with some excellent defense in the bottom of the inning, with Cortes snaring Anderson’s line drive right at him and Odor making a great play on a Hernandez bunt toward third for the second out.
But after Jose Abreu’s bloop single to center, Eloy Jimenez’s base hit to right became exciting when Judge’s throw to third was inaccurate. It didn’t get far enough away to score Abreu, but Jimenez got to second on the error.
But Cortes made another solid play on the mound on Andrew Vaughn’s comebacker.
The Yankees took a three-run lead in the second. After Voit’s leadoff single, Odor hit his 14th homer of the season to make it 2-0.
Kyle Higashioka and Tyler Wade struck out and then DJ LeMahieu singled to left. Brett Gardner followed with a hit to right, fielded by second baseman Hernandez. As Gardner tried to stretch for a double, Hernandez’s throw got away from Anderson at second, which allowed LeMahieu to score the third run of the inning.
Chicago put runners on the corners with two out in the third, but Tyler Wade made a fine play on a Vaughn grounder up the middle for the force out.
On the other side, Cortes rolled through five innings until Vaughn took him deep to left with one out in the sixth, cutting the Yankees’ lead to 3-1.
It was the only run allowed by Cortes before he was replaced by Ridings to start the bottom of the seventh.
Ridings walked pinch-hitter Lamb on four pitches, but recovered to toss a scoreless inning.
Ridings also walked Hernandez to lead off the eighth and was removed for Loaisiga, who got Abreu to ground into a force out and then struck Jimenez out looking — which led to White Sox manager Tony LaRussa getting ejected for arguing the call.
Loaisiga finished the inning with a Vaughn pop-out.
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