Every single loss this season has been galling, and we’re spoiled that it’s been so few (just 14 total as we approach June). They all seem to have one common denominator, though — the lineup is too thin to muster much of anything, the starter is good but not perfect, and maybe the lower-leverage guy in the bullpen can’t stop the other team at the end of the innings. Today, Gerrit Cole played the role that Jordan Montgomery usually plays, as he played in a 3-1 Yankees loss to Tampa Bay (Devil) rays.
Offensively it sounds reductive, but you have to score. DJ LeMahieu returned to the lineup in big style, doubling down right field wall against former teammate Corey Kluber in the first shot of the game. Aaron Judge’s single and Anthony Rizzo’s sacrificial fly slapped a run, and it looked like the Yankees might walk away with that one.
Only they weren’t. The Yankees never scored again after that opening volley. Judge was axed on Gleyber Torres’ doubles game, although one of the “hit and run, fly ball caught, throw first time” variations and a potential scoring opportunity in the third was nullified by DJ’s own GIDP. Kluber settled and the Rays bullpen threw the shutout ball. Throughout the game, we saw the issue of the Yankee batting order being so thin right now – when you can through DJ, Judge, Rizzo and Gleyber at the top of the order, there’s just nothing behind them that could pose much of a threat.
Pitching is so good right now and baseball is so dead that so much of your offense in 2022 needs to revolve around how often teams can make things difficult for the opposing pitcher, manager, etc. Top 4, there aren’t that many tough decisions to make at the moment and that probably won’t change until Giancarlo Stanton and Josh Donaldson are back.
Aaron Hicks scored a pinch hit for Jose Trevino in the seventh inning after Isiah Kiner-Falefa managed to produce a single. Trevino’s OPS is about 60 points better than Hicks at the moment, and even if you want to play the platoon map, Hicks from the left was terrible as Hicks would score from the left – 63 wRC+ vs 130 from the right. He didn’t get a single shot in play even though all four were in the striking zone:
And lest anyone think I’m just defending Joey Gallo here, he had THIS record appearance in the ninth:
I have no idea why Joey Gallo isn’t able to crush belt-high fastballs. Pitch #2 was 95 mph with below average spin right after he had just seen another 95 mph fastball with below average spin. That ball should have been crushed and it wasn’t and Gallo showed up a pitch later.
I guess let’s talk about pitching.
Gerrit Cole was at one this afternoon. Every starter has a certain energy as they roll – Roy Halladay and Corey Kluber are robots, Luis Severino and CC Sabathia will be as emotional on the hill as the Bleacher Creatures. Cole seems personally deeply offended that you dared to pit against him and we saw that attitude tonight.
Yandy Díaz went to nudge the bottom of the first, but after that Cole cruised for more than five innings. He laid down the next 14 straight, half via strikeout, including twice The Highly Overrated Wander Franco:
Really, PitchingNinja’s feed today was a plethora of Cole’s work, with perhaps my favorite being his freeze on Ji-Man Choi, a perfectly viable major league player who inexplicably came into play with four homers and 2,000+ OPS against the Yankee -ace:
Like I said, Cole is personally offended by your presence. Which means I can’t imagine how offended he was at home plate umpire Edwin Moscoso when Cole had a chance to end the inning with another strikeout from Choi:
Moscoso — who, if we’re being generous, was inconsistent at best today — called it ball four, Choi passed, and instead of the inning being over, Franco got a chance to score. He didn’t when he left, but Randy Arozarena stretched out his racquet and threw a weak fly ball over IKF’s head to bring in Choi and level the score.
That run and those two walks were the only real blemishes on Cole’s day. He was outstanding and I understand the argument that you can’t let a referee’s decision dictate the story of his start. At the same time, however, that ball/strike call would have resulted in Franco leading the seventh. Cole would have been in the dugout if that call had been correct. Also, I think it’s at least plausible that Cole would have come out for the seventh, that meeting those three extra batters in the sixth would have effectively ended his night.
With both Lucas Luetge and Michael King giving up runs in relief, one wonders what saving those three batsmen would have done for the club. Nevertheless, the team has to score. You just aren’t going to take out your opponent often enough to get by on a lousy run. It feels like every loss this season has been on offense, and today was no different.
Despite all of that, the Yankees can still get off the trop after winning three out of four, and I think we’d all be okay with that if they could finish the job on Sunday. Luis Severino will have a big task against Shane McClanahan tomorrow afternoon in the series finale, which you can watch starting at 1:40 p.m. Eastern Time.