I’m pretty sure most of the Yankees players and staff would like the last three hours back, thank you very much.
After showing signs of life in the last two games against the Rays, the Yankees imploded this afternoon, taking a 9-2 loss and dropping back to 4.5 games out of first place with a 31-26 record. Particularly painful was that the Yankees seemed poised for a series win against their division rival, with ace Gerrit Cole on the mound, but it was not to be. To the takeaways:
Gerrit Cole uncharacteristically struggles. For his last few starts Gerrit Cole, while mostly still good, has not seemed to be his best self, and today culminated in probably his worst start of the young season. For the first few innings it appeared as though Cole would grind through another solid performance without his best stuff, but a two-run home run in the top of the 4th and a few two-out RBI singles in the top of the 5th left him with a 5 inning, 5 earned run performance, bringing his season ERA from 1.78 to 2.26. Cole walked two, and has now walked batters in four straight starts after a stretch of five consecutive starts where he didn’t issue a base on balls. Cole would likely tell you he has not been happy with his recent performances – he’s posted a 4.30 ERA over his past four starts after starting the season at 1.37 in his first eight. Although his overall numbers are still excellent, today was a particularly bad day for him to be “off,” as the bullpen was stretched thin from two taxing games. Nick Nelson allowed four more runs in an inning and two thirds before Luis Cessa and Brooks Kriske finished out the game.
Yes, the umpiring was that bad. This game would have been a lot more frustrating if it were closer, because Chad Whitson’s strike zone was both terrible and biased. Rays starter Ryan Yarbrough, who wound up throwing a complete game, got eight pitches significantly out of the zone called strikes, while Cole got zero. A picture is worth a thousand words here, so I’ll leave it at that. Would the Yankees have won this game with better umpiring? Probably not. Is it still maddening? Absolutely.
The Yankees continue to struggle with situational hitting. Before the game got out of hand, it appeared for a while as though the Yankees were actually positioning themselves for another win. After Cole gave up a two-run home run to Austin Meadows in the fourth inning, the Yankees, down 2-1, opened the fifth by putting runners on second and third with no one out after back to back hits from Gio Urshela and Aaron Judge. Rougned Odor popped up, and Yarbrough then struck out Clint Frazier and Miguel Andujar.
The caveat here is that in no universe should Clint Frazier have struck out – in a six-pitch at bat, only one pitch from Yarbrough was actually in the zone, and Whitson called three of them for strikes. The Yankees should have had the bases loaded and one out instead of second and third with two outs after that at bat. Andujar’s strikeout was legit, though, and the Yankees have struggled all season to score runs when they have runners on third and less than two outs – in 79 plate appearances in that scenario, coming into this afternoon, the team has 18 strikeouts and has grounded into 10 double plays, only recording 14 hits and 33 RBIs. Good umpiring or bad umpiring, they’re going to lose games if they can’t cash in on opportunities like this.
Brett Gardner had a good day. Probably the only Yankee to have a legitimately good day today was Brett Gardner. He put the Yankees on the board in the third inning with a home run, his first since Game 1 of the Wild Card series against Cleveland last September, and ripped a double in the fifth. He is inching back up towards the Mendoza line, bringing his batting average up to .197.
- Gio Urshela attempted a 4th inning imitation of Derek Jeter in 2004, hurling his body towards the left field stands on a foul pop up. Unlike Derek Jeter, however, he bounced off the netting and did not catch the ball.
- The Yankees sat Giancarlo Stanton today after only playing him for one game (he had a pinch hit at bat on Tuesday but did not start). Stanton made some good contact yesterday, and the Yankees should want to get his bat going and get him into a groove, so the decision to sit him was a bit surprising unless he’s dealing with lingering injury.
- Miguel Andujar hit a solo home run in the 7th inning; he’s now hit 3 in the Yankees’ last 4 games.