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Yankees 1, Rays 0: The Cole train is unstoppable

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Despite getting next-to-no help from his offense, Gerrit Cole silenced the Rays’ bats for a fourth consecutive Yankee win.

New York Yankees v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

One run was all that was needed as Gerrit Cole carried the Yankees to the one-yard line with eight scoreless innings, before Aroldis Chapman slammed the door shut on the Rays in the ninth. With the win, the Yankees secured their first series win against the Rays in St. Pete in almost exactly two calendar years. Tomorrow, they’ll have a chance to complete the sweep at the Trop, same as they did from May 10th-12th of 2019.

As Wednesday’s opener opposite Gerrit Cole, Collin McHugh did his job well in the first, retiring the side in order on just 12 pitches. Rays manager Kevin Cash allowed him another clean inning before turning to Ryan Yarbrough as the bulk guy for the evening. In the fourth, Aaron Judge and Gio Urshela earned a couple of two-out knocks, but Luke Voit failed to capitalize as the score remained knotted at zero.

All game long, home-plate umpire Bill Miller gave pitchers from both teams some breathing room along the black, granting strikes a couple of inches off the plate on either side of the dish. The first to voice his displeasure with the zone was the usually-reserved Clint Frazier, who turned to argue a called third strike on the inner half and was immediately rung for the first ejection of his career, and replaced by Brett Gardner in left.

After watching him blow through 3.1 innings of scoreless relief for McHugh, Kevin “Captain Early Hook” Cash pulled Yarbrough before he could face the top of the Yankees’ order for a second time. At first, the harder-throwing, right-handed reliever, Ryan Thompson, proved him right, as he struck out DJ LeMahieu and Giancarlo Stanton to conclude the sixth.

In the following half-inning, Cole got himself into his tightest spot of the game. On an 0-1 count, Randy Arozarena hit a hanging slider about as far as is humanly possible into left-center-field at the Trop without actually clearing the wall for a homer. However, Cole was able to retire the Rays’ next two batters following Arozarena’s off-the-wall double, preserving his shutout through six.

In the top of the seventh inning, Urshela followed up a Judge single with a gapper that one-hopped the right-center-field fence to put himself on second, and moved Judge to third. Joey Wendle stabbed at a ball smoked down the third base line to nab Luke Voit at first, and prevent either runner from advancing.

Then, Peter Pan’s mortal enemy yanked Thompson for the left-handed Jeffrey Springs to turn around the switch-hitting Aaron Hicks. Down 0-2, with Frazier’s lefty-averse replacement Brett Gardner on deck, the prospects of providing any run support for Gerrit Cole looked particularly bleak. However, with a sharp flick of the wrists, Hicks drove a looping liner just deep enough into right-center to score Judge and send Urshela to third.

While Gardner was unable to scratch another run for the Yankees’ ace, the Yankees were able to send Cole back out into the seventh with a lead, albeit a narrow one, having still thrown fewer than 90 pitches.

With a 12-pitch seventh, Cole was able to squeeze out another inning, perhaps his best of the game. In his final frame, Cole continued to cruise through the eighth to three swinging strikeouts on another 12 pitches. In his eight-inning gem, Cole finished with 106 pitches and 12 strikeouts, just three singles and the Arozarena double away from a perfect outing.

Despite having thrown on three of the last four days, Aaron Boone called on Aroldis Chapman to record his second save in as many days.

Chapman seemed to start out slow, failing to clear 97 mph on either of his first two fastballs, but was able to dial it up to 101 to strike out Mike Brosseau. With the second out of the inning, Chapman delivered just a morsel of payback to Brosseau for ending the Yankees’ previous playoff campaign with one swing against him. After Urshela ensnared a Joey Wendle foul pop for the final out of the game, Cole could finally breathe, walking away with his fifth victory of the season.

Tomorrow’s matchup of Jameson Taillon against Rich Hill will be at the same place and time as this one, 7:10 EST at the Trop.

Box Score