Game 72: A very bad loss

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There are bad losses, and there are bad losses. This one was the latter. The Yankees fell to the Royals 6-5 in the series opener.

Gerrit Cole did his thing with lower spin rates again, but his offense was of little help. He handed a one-run lead to the Jonathan Loaisiga, who coughed it up with significant help from Tyler Wade. DJ LeMahieu’s two-run blast in the eighth cut Kansas City’s lead to one, and the Yankees threatened in the ninth, but it wasn’t enough. Not only was Cole’s start spoiled, but so was Luke Voit’s return to the lineup. To tonight’s takeaways:

If you’re gonna enter as a defensive replacement, you better make the plays hit to you. Technically, Wade entered this one as a pinch runner for Luke Voit. But he stayed in on defense at second base while DJ LeMahieu took over at first for Voit. Anyway, Wade made two mistakes in the field that compounded Jonathan Loaisiga’s rough night.

It’s one thing for a reliever to struggle — and clearly, Loaisiga didn’t have it tonight — but it’s another thing for the defense to make matters worse. The righty gave up four runs and retired just two of the seven batters he faced, but he very easily could have escaped the eighth inning with just one run allowed and a tie game. Instead, two Wade miscues led to the Yankees trailing 6-3.

The first came with runners on second and third and one out with Ryan O’Hearn at the plate:

That’s not an easy play, but it’s one you have to make in that situation especially if your calling is speed and defense. The Yankees were going to lose the lead given the location of the grounder regardless, but at least get the second out and have a better chance to escape the inning still tied. And sure, maybe LeMahieu could have scooped that, but at the same time: make a better throw.

Unfortunately, it got worse. Wade had another chance to preserve the tie with the next batter, Jarred Dyson.

Carlos Santana should have been out at home plate. Wade needs to make a quicker exchange there. Whether he got a poor grip or not, I don’t care. Get the ball out quicker and keep the score level.

From there, the floodgates opened. Two more hits against Loaisiga knocked him out and made it 6-3. No, Loaisiga didn’t look good, but it’s also a lot to ask of a pitcher to get five outs in an inning.

Welcome back Luke Voit. It feels good to have a competent first baseman back in the starting lineup, doesn’t it? Entering today, Yankees’ first basemen owned a putrid 55 wRC+, second-lowest in the majors. The return of Voit means the return of the guy with the third-highest wRC+ of major league first basemen since 2018 (min. 500 PA). Only Max Muncy (142) and Freddie Freeman (141) have him beat, and barely (139).

Naturally, Voit did what he does best right away. Literally. Here’s what happened against the first pitch he saw:

Voit also tripled (!) on what nearly was a homer, but upon replay it was clear a fan reached over a touched the ball. He also walked.

Obvious statement forthcoming: Voit’s return is a huge jolt to this lineup. The offense seems to be snapping out of it a bit, with guys like DJ LeMahieu and Gary Sánchez hitting, but adding Voit is an immediate boost. Not only does it take Rougned Odor out of the lineup, but it’s also a nice shot in the arm while guys like Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres slump.

Reviewing Gerrit Cole’s second start without the sticky stuff. The team’s ace delivered seven innings of two-run ball tonight, and while he wasn’t necessarily overpowering (just six strikeouts), he got the job done. Everyone’s keeping a close eye on how Cole fares without foreign substances, and so far, so good. Speaking of keeping a close eye: today was the first time Cole had to go through umpires checking him between innings. There were no issues.

Cole’s spin rates tonight.

Cole’s last start included two notable adjustments: his fastball location (arm side and down in the zone) and an emphasis on his changeup. Tonight, we saw a bit of a different version of Cole. He all but abandoned his changeup, throwing just nine total. He avoided it for a little bit after Ryan O’Hearn took him deep against the pitch in the fourth, though he didn’t eschew it completely. Perhaps more interestingly, Cole relied heavily on his fastball on slider, combining to throw them 74 percent of the time tonight.

Let’s talk about Cole’s fastball. It still looks great to the eye, hitting 100 MPH on occasion and late into the game. However, the significant spin decrease has made it tougher for him to blow it past opponents. He picked up 4 whiffs on 17 swings (17%) against it tonight after 2 on 23 (9%) in his last outing. This is way down from a roughly 27 percent whiff rate on his fastball since last season.

I suspect that part of Cole’s lack of whiffs against his heater are due to location. As noted previously, he threw a bunch of them down in the zone against Toronto. He wasn’t down as much today, but he was quite a bit more middle-middle. Cole’s at his best up in the zone with his fastball, though he may be hesitant to go upstairs with it now that he’s lost some spin.

On the flip side, Cole’s slider still seems pretty darn good in spite of reduced spin. Tonight, Cole picked up 8 swings-and-misses on 19 swings (42%) and of the five batted balls against the pitch, none had an exit velocity north of 75 MPH. This is on the heels of tabbed 8 whiffs on 13 hacks against his slider last week. So for whatever reason, that pitch seems A-OK.

In all, a very good start. It’d be nice to see him rack up double-digit strikeout games again, though. Still, it’s been just two starts and it’s not like this is the first time Cole hasn’t picked up massive strikeout totals in back-to-back starts this year. He fanned just 12 batters in 13 innings in consecutive starts vs. the White Sox and Tigers in May before the foreign substance ban, you know. So I wouldn’t raise any alarms just yet, even if his fastball in particular has looked less dominant.

Leftovers

  • Too little, too late: the Yankees offense tried to rally back from Wade’s fielding gaffes, but came up short. DJ LeMahieu’s two-run homer in the eighth made it 6-5. In the ninth, the Yankees put the tying and winning runs on base but to no avail.
  • The Yankees were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position and stranded 13 runners. Gross.
  • Gio Urshela got hit by pitch and noticeably limped through the end of this one, before he was pinch ran for in the ninth. Hopefully it’s no more than a bruise, but we already know that he’s been banged up this season.
  • I guess Kyle Higashioka wants to keep catching Cole, huh? He slugged a homer in his first at-bat tonight, his first since May 8th.

Hopefully the Yankees can rebound tomorrow. It’ll be Michael King against Danny Duffy, who returns from the injured list. Have a good night.

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12 Comments

  1. MikeD

    Wade entered the game, understandably, to add more speed, although it likely made no difference as Voit would have also scored after his rare triple. I wonder if Voit’s ball had an extra foot of distance and it cleared the wall if Boone still would have pulled Voit for a defensive upgrade? Probably. He does it regularly and it’s annoying when he does it to bring in Wade and move DJ to 1B. First, if Voit’s at 1B he likely handles and scoops the ball better than DJLM, whose weakest position out of the three he plays is 1B. He’s a better athlete than Voit, but he still struggles with the repetitive moves a regular 1B’man will nail. No matter, because if Voit’s still at 1B, than DJLM is still at 2B, so DJ likely makes a stronger throw and Voit’s in position to scoop it even if he’s off. Lost out #1 because of no Voit. The second, and more egregious, is the double pump, which allowed the runner to score. DJ likes nails him. Second out and no run. Even with Losaiga struggling, the Yankees would have been in position to still win the game 5-2, or maybe 5-3. Last, even if the Yankees are tied or behind, and if Voit was still in the game, he’s batting in the 9th instead of Odor, who popped up. Voit’s removal came into play in three instances. Now, once again, I understand and agree with brining in Wade in this circumstance. I’m simply using this to vent on how Boone does this regularly purely for defense, and I suggest losing Voit’s bat in close games is a bad decision considering the defensive is almost non-existent.

    Separate item. I suspect this was not only the second start by Cole post sticky stuff. Seems he went “dry” at the start of June when the first memo hit and he had his iffy game vs. the Rays, and certainly by the Twins game when all eyes were focused on him, so it’s probably three if not four starts. This seems to be backed up by reduced spin rates across all four starts, although the last two have been more extreme, likely caused by the more challenging and cooler weather conditions, making it even more difficult to grip and spin the ball.

  2. The Original Drew

    I put the loss more on Boone for not pulling Loaisiga when he clearly had nothing and completely rested bullpen at the ready. Zero sense or urgency and we have seen it time and time again from this manager. When things don’t go according to plan, Boone lets things spiral out of control instead of reacting to what’s happening in front of his face.

  3. H. Avis

    Mediocre teams lack consistency. The Yankees are mediocre and can’t even be considered a serious playoff caliber club at this stage. If you can’t beat KC at home with your best starter …

  4. Terry from LA

    They lost because they stink with RISP! That’s it. Wade screwed up totally (HOY PARK!!, the guy is hitting almost .400) Get rid of Odor for God’s sake! Frazier and Gleyber would swing at the Goodyear Blimp if it flew over the stadium. This is what mediocracy looks like.

  5. James M Dunn

    Wade is supposedly an strong defensive, fast player who maybe can move a runner over via a bunt…at least he’s fast. A strong defense player makes those plays, pure and simple. Gio makes those plays, DJ makes those plays. If Wade can’t he shouldn’t be on the team. Secondly, pinch hitting with Odor is a wasted at bat, unless your pinch hitting for Tyler Wade….Please trade for a competent backup infielder or bring up Park, please!!! Lastly I (and obviously the Yankees) dont know what to do about the lack of productivity with runners in scoring position. Fire coaches, bench players or make trades(well yeah)..dont know. But maybe just play your best hitters and play them in the spot in the lineup they earned. This team is so damn frustrating 🤬

  6. Dan

    What has happened to Gleyber man, what a fall from grace

    • Gleyber’s relatively soft contact is catching up to him. The power is missing and he’s still got the big leg kick. We already know he’s a mediocre, at best, shortstop, so if his bat disappears, he’s not helping much.

    • TBonesNYY

      Gleyber looks lost lately. Cone remarked on his 3rd K of the night, “high leg kick for a 2 strike count.” Sure was. Wake up. And that 4th K – Ugh

  7. D J

    Blaming Wade on two tough plays is silly.

    The Yankees were 0-10 with RISP. Stanton had a dreadful game, as did Torres and Frazier, just awful AB’s

    • It’s both DJ. Yes the offense failed with RISP, but Wade missed on two plays that a defensive replacement has to make. His skill set is so limited now all he can do well is pinch run. He can’t hit and his defense is suspect. What does he bring to the table?

      • Geno

        Do you remember when he was sent in as a pinch runner (last year/this year)? He was on second and the batter hit a routine fly to right. Wade ran to third as soon as the ball was hit. The right fielder caught the ball and threw to second to double up Wade. He was standing on third wondering what had happened. He has no baseball instincts and no MLB skills.

    • Agreed that Torres and Frazier’s at bats in the 9th, swinging at balls way out of the strike zone (Gleyber swinging at a ball that bounced on the plate), were pathetic. Both of them are swinging for the fences–why? It seemed like just yesterday when Gleyber was an unstoppable hitter, particularly in Baltimore. His swing needs to be rebuilt from scratch.

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