When Gerrit Cole starts, it’s reasonable to expect the Yankees to win based on that fact alone. It’s even more reasonable to do so with the knowledge that he only allowed two runs. Unfortunately, outside of a few contributors, the rest of the Yankees did not help this sentiment come true at all. Jonathan Loaisiga was bad, the defense wasn’t much better, and the Yankees stranded 10 men in scoring position without registering a single hit. Long balls kept them in the game, but it wasn’t enough, and they lost, 6-5.
The Yankees got off to a fast start thanks to a big man back in their lineup for the first time in a month: Luke Voit. The first baseman had something to prove, as his first return from the IL (due to spring knee surgery) lasted only 12 games and consisted of just a single dinger before he sprained his oblique. This time, Voit wasted no time in going deep, taking Brady Singer deep on the first pitch he saw:
1st pitch he saw.— New York Yankees (@Yankees) June 22, 2021
Luke nuke. pic.twitter.com/qkTbY0MDhb
A 423-feet blast is one helluva way to reintroduce yourself.
It seemed like that wouldn’t be all for the Yankees off Singer, either. A Gio Urshela single sandwiched in between walks to Giancarlo Stanton and Gleyber Torres quickly put the 24-year-old on the ropes with two outs. Singer did get the final out though, as he induced a fielder’s choice from Clint Frazier to leave the bags loaded.
The next inning though, Cole’s personal catcher did his part to prevent Singer from thinking that he was working through an easy part of the lineup. Kyle Higashioka hadn’t gone deep since May 8th, but he did exactly that to kick off the second:
High-Sock Higgy. pic.twitter.com/N1tlt0m3Ap— New York Yankees (@Yankees) June 22, 2021
Hey, if this Higgy wants to show up in Cole’s outings rather than the one who went into a long tailspin after being named the co-starter, then I won’t complain about the personal catcher label.
The only downside of the inning is that the Yankees’ offense took the same strategy as the first. DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Judge knocked back-to-back singles with one out to spark another scoring opportunity ... only to see the players behind them in the lineup do nothing with it. Voit and Stanton both reached in the first, but this time, they popped up and struck out, respectively.
The Royals hadn’t done anything against Cole after the Yankees’ first squandered opportunity, but they pounced when they finally got a hit off him to start the third (a Michael A. Taylor single). Nicky Lopez followed with a single of his own to move the speedy Taylor to third, and he scored on a slow grounder to second. They had a legitimate chance to do damage with big hitters Carlos Santana and Salvador Perez due up next, but to Cole, it was no sweat. He fanned Santana and induced a flyout from Perez to end the inning.
Leading off the top of the fourth, Ryan O’Hearn was not so kind to Cole. He had been demoted at the end of May due to his woeful numbers and had only just been recalled prior to Tuesday night’s game. Nonetheless, O’Hearn took advantage of Cole’s recent homer-prone attack to tie the ballgame with a 377-foot missile to right.
In the fourth, the Yankees’ offense once again threatened to build a lead for their ace to make the point moot, but if you’re sensing a theme in this story, you’re right on the mark. Singer walked the bases loaded with two men out, with the last coming on a free pass to Voit after Royals skipper Mike Matheny left him in during a mound visit. In came Kris Bubic, and out went the rally, as Stanton hit a weak grounder to bring the Yankees’ LOB total up to 10.
Cole rolled along and ended up completing seven innings of two-run ball, allowing just three hits and three walks while fanning six Royals. That last figure includes Cole’s final batter of the game: Lopez whiffing on a 99.9-mph fastball with two men on. A missed strike three call on Taylor had extended the inning in the previous at-bat, but Cole stayed in after a brief mound visit by Aaron Boone, and he finished off his outing in style.
Cole hits 100 on the radar again, down swinging to end the inning.#YANKSonYES pic.twitter.com/mzefaXflrE— YES Network (@YESNetwork) June 23, 2021
For those keeping score at home, Cole also passed two umpire inspections during the game, so that was indeed a clean outing.
The Yankees briefly jumped on top in the seventh when Voit led off with his second hit of the game, a sky-high triple to left that nearly went over the fence and took a weird bounce. Some fans got their hands in the way, but the umpires ruled that Voit would stay at third. That came in handy, as the pinch-running Tyler Wade scored from third on a wild pitch. A couple batters later, Torres and Frazier stranded more baserunners to end the inning. They wouldn’t be done.
Loaisiga was handed the ball in the eighth to cement the bridge to Aroldis Chapman. The right-hander has been excellent for the Yankees in 2021, but this just wasn’t his night. Because misery loves company, it wasn’t a banner night for Wade at second, either. Behold this back-breaking sequence:
- Leadoff single for Whit Merrifield, 93.3 mph exit velo
- Booming double for Carlos Santana, 108.4 mph exit velo
- Strikeout of Salvador Perez (on a borderline call)
- Infield single for Ryan O’Hearn to score Merrifield (Wade threw wildly to first)
- Fielder’s choice for Jarrod Dyson to score Santana (Wade double-clutched and threw too late to get Santana, and he could have also gone for the double play)
- Strikeout of Kelvin Gutierrez
- Single to center for Hunter Dozier to score O’Hearn, 90.7 mph exit velo
- Single up the middle for Michael A. Taylor to score Dyson, 99.2 mph exit velo
Mercifully, that was the end of Loaisiga’s night. It was a brutal combination of subpar pitching and questionable glovework. The Royals led, 6-3.
After those extra runs were plated, it was only natural that the Yankees drew the game closer just to shine the spotlight even brighter on those missed opportunities all around. Kyle Zimmer entered for the eighth, walked Brett Gardner, and coughed up a two-run blast to right field by LeMahieu. Judge narrowly missed a homer of his own, settling for a double off the wall in left-center, but guess what? He was also stranded, as Rougned Odor and Stanton could only manage outs on weak contact.
The Royals’ lead was cut to one, and closer Greg Holland had to walk the tightrope in the ninth. Urshela led off with a bloop single before departing for a pinch-runner, as he was limping after getting plunked on the leg earlier in the game. Torres and Frazier had further opportunities to make amends for their RISPfails. Instead, they both went down on strikes. Joy. Gary Sánchez was intentionally walked, Gardner popped up, and that was a wrap on an awful ballgame.
The final damage? 13 runners stranded and again, 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position. The June 2021 Yankees had been sharp on offense for the past couple weeks, but the ghosts of their dismal April and May returned on this night. I can only hope that you had something better to watch.
The Yankees squandered a Cole start, and if they don’t want to blow an easy home series against the Royals, they must now win back-to-back games with Michael King and Jameson Taillon taking the hill. Gulp. King will have the first pitch tomorrow at 7:05 pm ET.