The Bronx Bombers returned after a one game absence yesterday. No shutout this time around as the Yankees topped the Rays 8-4 in the first of two this afternoon. Mike Ford’s two-run blast got things going again and the rest of the offense followed. The Rays did make Gerrit Cole work hard, but the bullpen held things down after Cole’s early exit. Let’s break it down.

An inauspicious start

It looked like the Yankees were going to be in for a challenge with Tyler Glasnow on the mound for the Rays. And after Glasnow’s easy 1-2-3 eight pitch first inning, all I could think was: here we go again.

The Yankees didn’t score in the second inning, but perhaps it was a harbinger of things to come. In fairness, it was an incredibly frustrating inning, but it did show that Glasnow was vulnerable today. Let’s walk through it. Giancarlo Stanton and the slumping Gleyber Torres hit back-to-back singles to begin the frame. Glasnow rebounded and blew away Mike Tauchman for the first out, but subsequently walked Gio Urshela to load the bases.

So with the bases full and one out, Gary Sánchez stepped to the plate. As has been well documented, Gary is off to a horrific start. He’s been swinging through in-zone fastballs left and right, but in this at-bat, Glasnow got Gary to chase. Sánchez worked a 3-2 count, but chased a fastball way above the zone to bail out the Rays’ righty.

It’s one thing to slump while missing hittable pitches. It’s another to get oneself out by chasing bad ones. That’s what Gary did here. Frustrating, to say the least.

Brett Gardner followed with a strikeout of his own to end the inning. Chances against Glasnow are few and far between, and the Yankees blew this one. It was not a good feeling. Fortunately, that negativity was premature.

Ford jump-starts Yankees offense

The third inning went much better for the Yankees’ offense. The Bombers ended a thirteen inning scoreless streak just three batters into the frame. DJ LeMahieu lined out, but Aaron Judge singled to set up Mike Ford for this.

Truck month is back, folks. We haven’t seen too much of Ford yet this season, and he hadn’t done much in his minimal opportunities, but this was a big knock. Ford obliterated that pipeshot 2-0 fastball 107 MPH and 437 feet away. That rally-killing dinger made it 2-0 Yankees.

After Ford, Stanton and Torres drew back-to-back walks. Tauchman then struck out, setting up the potential for Glasnow to work out of another jam. Not on Gio’s watch!

My goodness is Urshela a monster. He delivered in all four of his plate appearances today. Urshela singled, walked, and had a sacrifice fly. That sac fly made the score 8-4 in the seventh. He’s up to .341/.429/.659 (201 wRC+) on the season.

The other Yankees runs scored on dingers from the Yankees’ two very large sluggers, Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge. First, Stanton’s solo blast that made it 5-1:

Then Judge’s which made things 7-3:

That was Judge’s league-leading eighth home run, by the way.

The Rays wore down Cole

This was a really weird one for Gerrit Cole. On one hand, I thought he had his best command and stuff of the season. On the other hand, the Rays really made him work and knocked him out with two outs in the fifth.

First, the good. Cole struck out 10 batters this afternoon and induced his highest whiff rate of the season. Entering this start, Cole had at 25.4 percent whiff rate in 22 1/3 innings. That was comfortably below either of his two seasons in Houston, particularly last year when he posted a 37.2 percent rate. Today, Tampa Bay hitters swung-and-missed on 23 of 52 attempts (44.2 percent). So the stuff was clearly there today.

I thought Cole’s location was solid too. As per the above, the vast majority of his fastballs up and to his arm side, which is where he normally likes to be. I mentioned after a previous Cole outing that he was hooking some of his fastballs to the glove side. That wasn’t really the case today. Gerrit also did a good job burying his slider down and out of the zone today too, save for a few strays. It’s no wonder the Rays whiffed on 8 of 11 swings against the pitch.

Now, for the downside. Cole was very inefficient and ran out of steam by the fifth. His pitch count by inning: 19, 18, 21, 22, and 27. Tampa Bay did foul off 19 of his 107 pitches, with 15 of those being fastballs. In particular, Yoshi Tsutsugo’s fourth inning leadoff walk on the 12th pitch of the at-bat.

Of those six foul balls, five were on Cole’s heater. That really broke up any potential for Gerrit to get into a rhythm in this one. 80 pitches through four frames all but insured that Cole wouldn’t go past five. Turns out, he couldn’t even finish the fifth inning.

Even though Cole had a high pitch count, there didn’t seem to be much concern about him getting through the fifth unscathed. The Yankees had a 4-0 lead and Tampa Bay really hadn’t threatened. Cole began the frame by striking out Kevin Kiermaier. Mike Zunino followed with a double, but Cole got to two outs by fanning Yandy Díaz. That’s when the righty finally ran out of gas. First, Ji-Man Choi cut the lead to 5-1 with a double.

Matt Blake came out for a mound visit with Cole at 104 pitches, but clearly the goal was to have Gerrit finish the frame. Was it so Cole could get the win and reach 20-0 in his last 20 decisions? Who knows. It did seem like he had an upcoming favorable matchup against José Martínez, who’s known to be a lefty masher. Cole had struck him out twice already, too. Instead, this happened:

That was it for Cole’s day. Chad Green worked out of it for him. The final line: 4 2/3 innings, 6 hits, 3 runs, 1 walk, and 10 strikeouts.

Leftovers

  • Chad Green and Adam Ottavino combined to wrap this one up. Green didn’t look particularly sharp, but did keep things mostly in check to earn his second win of the year. Green didn’t allow any hits, but two walks and a wild pitch led to a Kiermaier RBI groundout in the sixth. Ottavino threw a scoreless ninth (and made a nice defensive play to boot).
  • Gleyber Torres had a better day. He was aboard in two of four plate appearances: one single and one walk. Hopefully he’s turning things around.
  • Game two will begin relatively shortly. No announcement on who starts yet, but we’ll have that in the upcoming game thread.