That game wasn’t fun. Most of these games with Tampa are super close and decided by terrible Yankees defense or one bad pitch. The Yankees lose this game by the score of 4-2 and their record drops to 16-8. They are a half game ahead of Tampa for the division lead.
1. The Ace: This is exactly why Gerrit Cole is in pinstripes. The stakes aren’t as high as we would like given the expanded playoff format, but this was an important game for the Yankees. The Rays control the season series up to this point. The Yanks needed the best version of their top dog and he delivered. Cole was extremely competitive from at-bat to at-bat. The plan of attack was clear. Gerrit wanted to be aggressive in the zone with his fastball and use the slider off the heater. Gerrit and Gary didn’t believe the Rays lineup could compete with that elite mix. They were right.
Cole had a really effective four seamer tonight. This may have been the hardest he’s thrown through the duration of a start for the Yankees. Here is his pitch velocity chart:
This is high octane gas. If you watched the broadcast, you could hear the loud grunts coming from Cole after every pitch. I’m sure there was some extra juice given the opponent, but this was also the strategy on the night. Despite their recent surge, the Rays don’t have an imposing offense. They are especially susceptible to high end fastballs. Out of the 15 AL teams, Tampa ranks 10th in wOBA against the fastball at 0.332. If you have heat, you should bring it against the Rays. Gerrit Cole threw 109 pitches tonight. Half of them were fastballs. He had a 36% whiff rate and a 40% called strike/whiff rate on the pitch. In one of the last at-bats of the evening, he threw a 99 MPH seed. Needless to say, it was an effective approach.
Cole’s second-best pitch of the night was his slider. The slider was the compliment to the fastball against righties. He had great command of it all night. Cole was really able to bury it to finish batters off. Here is his pitch location chart against righties with the slider. The pitch is in yellow:
I’m a filmmaker. I love art. That pitch location chart is a fine piece of art. That is exactly how you want the slider to work off the fastball. He was able to get six whiffs and 10 called strikes/whiffs on the 29 sliders thrown in the game. Here is an example:
My intention was to get into more detail on Cole’s command, but then the sixth inning with two outs took place. I mentioned earlier that the Yankees brought Cole in for these performances. They also signed him for his competitive fire. Cole’s reaction to Boone pulling him was priceless. There were F-bombs. There may have been steam coming out of Cole’s ears. Cole was even more pissed off when he entered the dugout. Here is the video:
I love all of it. You want to be in the middle of the competitive action. This was Cole’s game. He embraced that challenge and wanted to see it through. What else do you want from your ace? I’m sure Boone loves it too. They’ll hug it out. The most important thing is your 300 million dollar man is all in.
2. The Other Guy Was Good Too: Tyler Glasnow is a stud. The Yankees caught him on an off day down in Tampa. He brought his A-game tonight. You can make the case that he out-pitched Cole tonight. It is totally understandable for Yankees fans to think a healthy lineup would’ve performed better against Glasnow. The counter is Tyler was filthy all night. Lesser pitchers shut down a healthy Yankees lineup this season. It is certainly possible Judge, DJLM, and Stanton scratch a run or two. It is also possible Glasnow makes them look just as bad as the rest of the lineup did tonight.
The moments when you really miss those three bats is against the Rays pen. Outside of Nick Anderson, there are plenty of pitchers in Tampa’s bullpen to beat up on. Over the last two nights, the Yankees were in prime position to complete comebacks and failed. The bottom of the ninth tonight featured some horrific at-bats with runners on first and second base. The fate of the game was in the hands of a scuffling Miguel Andújar and young Thairo Estrada. Both hitters struck out in a horrific manner. The Andújar at-bat was even more frustrating because it was a part of a confounding night on the part of Aaron Boone. We will get to that shortly. If three of the Yankees top bats are in the lineup, I feel confident about a comeback win. Alas, the Yankees were unable to put good at-bats together in the end.
3. Boone Contributes To A Loss: Aaron Boone does a lot of things well as Yankees manager. One thing he does not do well is manage a bullpen. The 8th inning is a master class on what not to do with the pen. After relieving Gerrit Cole in the seventh, Zack Britton came on for the 8th. Yandy Díaz was the first batter. Britton got Díaz to tap a weak ground ball to first. It was a tough play for Luke Voit, but he was able to make it. There was a slight problem. Zack Britton dropped the throw. Díaz advanced to second and then third on a Britton wild pitch.
The biggest at-bat of the inning was the walk to Brandon Lowe. It was a lefty on lefty matchup. Once Britton lost Lowe, Boone should’ve replaced him with Adam Ottavino. Boone chose to keep Britton in against José Martínez. Martínez hit into a fielder’s choice and the Yankees recorded the out at home. Kevin Cash then pinch-hit Mike Brosseau for Ji-Man Choi. Surely, Aaron Boone will go with one of his righties, Ottavino and Jonathan Loaisiga, to face Brosseau. Boone chose to keep Britton in.
The obvious reason is the double-play ball. The problem was Britton’s command. Everything was either way off the plate or up in the zone. The sinker wasn’t working. A major league manager should be able to identify this. There are two righties with strikeout ability in the pen. You don’t absolutely need the double play. As discussed earlier, the Rays aren’t good against fastballs. You go to Loaisiga for a strikeout and/or weak contact.
The decision to leave Britton in the game is inexcusable. Boone has to be able to read the situation better and with more urgency. Why else are you warming up two righties if you’re not going to use them in the appropriate situation? The bullpen management remains a major concern when it comes to Boone. It costs the team repeatedly. There has to be a better grasp of the current situation and near-future scenarios. What makes this more confounding is the fundamental nature of some of these decisions. Boone clearly thought a few steps ahead, but the reluctance to pull the trigger is mind-boggling. Yes, Zack Britton should execute better. The manager should also put his players and team in the best position to win. Boone failed to do that tonight and the consequence was a loss.
Leftovers: This game sucked. The Yankees will try to avoid the sweep tomorrow afternoon. It will be James Paxton against TBD for the Rays. While these last two games have been awful, it is important to remember the Yankees are having a good season. They are tied for the top spot in the American League. They will be fine. Don’t forget that. Have a great night everyone.