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Yankees 1, Rays 3: Just not good enough

Bad outcomes up and down the lineup doom what was a promising Cole start

MLB: New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Every single loss this season has been an annoying one, and we’re spoiled that there have been so few (just 14 in total as we approach June). They all seem to have a common thread 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 hold the other team off in the late innings. Today, Gerrit Cole occupied the role normally played by Jordan Montgomery, as he pitched very well in a 3-1 Yankees loss to the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays.

Offensively, it sounds reductive, but you gotta score. DJ LeMahieu returned to the lineup in a big way, doubling off the right field wall against former teammate Corey Kluber in the first at-bat of the game. Aaron Judge’s single and Anthony Rizzo’s sacrifice fly plated a run, and it looked like the Yankees might be off and running with this one.

Except that they weren’t. The Yankees never scored again after that opening salvo. Judge was erased on Gleyber Torres’ double play, albeit one of the “hit and run, caught fly ball, throw to first” variety, and a potential scoring opportunity in the third was wiped out by DJ’s own GIDP. Kluber settled down and the Rays’ bullpen threw shutout ball. For the entire game, we saw the problem with the Yankee batting order being so thin right now — if you can through DJ, Judge, Rizzo and Gleyber at the top of the order, there’s just nothing behind them that can present much of a threat.

Pitching is so good at the moment, and the baseball is so dead that so much of your offense in 2022 has to revolve around how many times teams can make things more difficult for the opposing pitcher, manager, etc. Once you navigate the Yankees’ top four, there aren’t that many hard decisions to make right now, and that’s probably not going to change until Giancarlo Stanton and Josh Donaldson are back.

Aaron Hicks 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 right now, and even if you want to play the platoon card, given that Hicks would be hitting from the left side, Hicks has been dreadful from the left side — 63 wRC+ vs. 130 from the right. He did not put a single pitch in play, despite all four being in the strike zone:

And lest anyone think that all I do here is defend Joey Gallo, he had THIS plate appearance in the ninth:

I have no idea why Joey Gallo is unable to crush belt high fastballs. Pitch No. 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 popped out a pitch later.

I guess let’s talk pitching.

Gerrit Cole was on one this afternoon. Every starter has a certain energy when they’re rolling — Roy Halladay and Corey Kluber are robots, Luis Severino and CC Sabathia will be as emotional as the Bleacher Creatures while on the hill. Cole will seem personally, deeply offended that you dared to step in the box against him, and we saw that attitude tonight.

Yandy Díaz walked to kick off the bottom of the first, but after that, Cole cruised for more than five innings. He set down the next 14 in a row, half via the strikeout, including twice setting down The Highly Overrated Wander Franco:

Really, PitchingNinja’s feed today was a plethora of Cole’s work, with perhaps my favorite being his freezing of Ji-Man Choi, a perfectly serviceable major league player who inexplicably came into play with four home runs and a better-than-2.000 OPS against the Yankee ace:

Like I said, Cole is personally offended at your presence. Which means I cannot imagine how offended he was at home-plate umpire Edwin Moscoso, when Cole had a chance to end the inning with yet another strikeout of Choi:

Moscoso — who if we’re being generous was at best inconsistent today — called it ball four, Choi walked, and instead of the inning being over, Franco got a chance to hit. He didn’t, as he walked, but Randy Arozarena stuck his bat out and flipped a weak fly ball over IKF’s head to bring in Choi and tie the score.

That run, and those two walks, were the only real blemishes on Cole’s day. He was outstanding, and I get the argument that you can’t let an umpire’s decision dictate the story of your start. However, at the same time, that ball/strike call would have led to Franco leading off the seventh. Cole would have been in the dugout had that call been made correctly. I think its also at least plausible that Cole would have come out for the seventh, that facing those extra three batters in the sixth effectively ended his night.

When both Lucas Luetge and Michael King gave up runs in relief, you wonder what saving those three batters would have done for the club. Even with that said, though, the team has to score. You’re just not going to shut out your opponent often enough to get by on one lousy run. It feels like every loss this season has been on the offense, and today was no different.

Despite all that, the Yankees can still walk out of the Trop having won three of four, and I think we’d all be fine with that if they can finish the job on Sunday. Luis Severino will had a tall task opposing Shane McClanahan tomorrow afternoon in the series finale, which you can catch starting 1:40 pm Eastern.

Box Score