The magic of baseball is that it can keep your heart racing on any given night, even when your favorite team is in the middle of one of the best years you’ve ever seen. The Yankees won their 50th game of 2022 already on Monday night. It is unbelievably rare to see a team with 50 victories when Father’s Day was just yesterday, and this team has been overpowering enough to make most of the W’s a breeze, all things considered.
Monday night, however, offered none of the casual dominance and all of the nail-biting and hyperventilating. The bulk of the drama came from Gerrit Cole, who took a no-hitter deep for the second time this month, all while the Yankees could only scrap together a couple runs against Shane McClanahan and the Rays’ bullpen. Then, Cole lost his bid on a leadoff single in the eighth by Isaac Paredes, and ace reliever Clay Holmes stunningly gave up his first run since Opening Day as Tampa Bay tied it, 2-2.
It took ninth-inning dramatics from Aaron Hicks to give the Yankees the lead that they would not relinquish. And even with an insurance run, Wandy Peralta made it interesting after taking over for Holmes, as the Rays twice sent the winning run to the plate. The lefty bore down to get a strikeout and a fly ball to Hicks, securing the 4-2 victory and allowing thousands of Yankees fans to breathe a sigh of relief.
Cole flirted with perfection back on June 3rd against the Tigers and saw his bid broken up with two outs in the seventh. He wasn’t perfect this time around, but his no-hit attempt lasted even longer. Cole’s command was electric, as he masterfully located his fastball in particular:
Gerrit Cole, K'ing the Side with pic.twitter.com/YfkR6oJxq7— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 20, 2022
Gerrit Cole's 5th and 6th Ks (consecutively) pic.twitter.com/jdgJOtzsfk— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 20, 2022
Cole could seemingly put his pitches wherever he wanted tonight, with the lone exception being the fifth inning. Walks to Brett Phillips and Josh Lowe put a runner scoring position with two outs, and Cole blew Rene Pinto away with a K to end the frame.
Other than that brief lapse in control, Cole spun absolute filth, striking out 12 through 7 innings of no-hit ball. Even though he’s only been with the Yankees for 56 starts now (roughly the equivalent of just under two full seasons), he’s fifth all-time in double-digit strikeout games in franchise history with 16. His next will tie him with Al Downing for fourth, just a few behind CC Sabathia.
Tasked with facing McClanahan for the second time in the span of a week, the Yankees tried early on to replicate the strategy of making their scant hits count. On June 15th, Aaron Judge cracked a first-inning homer against him to the Yankees up early, 1-0. This time, Anthony Rizzo handled the opening honors, crushing a 2-2 pitch 410 feet to right field for his 19th long ball of the season:
The 2021 season wasn’t even a bad one for Rizzo, but it still took him until September 9th to reach the doorstep of 20 homers. In this remarkable year though, he’s clubbed No. 19 on June 20th. Most fans had modest expectations for the three-time All-Star who hasn’t played at this level in a few years, but he’s smashed them.
McClanahan quickly recovered and proceeded to retire the next 11 Yankees in order. They threatened again in the fifth when they got back-to-back one-out singles from Josh Donaldson and Hicks, and the right-hander made problems for himself by walking Jose Trevino to load the bases. But the No. 9 hitter was next up, and though Marwin Gonzalez homered yesterday, McClanahan wasted no time with him, as he got a first-pitch double play on a sharp grounder to third, ending the inning.
By the seventh, McClanahan was out of the game for the Rays, but the Yankees were on the verge of squandering another golden opportunity. Gleyber Torres greeted reliever Ryan Thompson with a double to right, and he stole third without a throw. Donaldson and Hicks had helped create that scoring chance in the fifth, but this time, they were the goats, as they struck out in consecutive at-bats to keep Torres anchored on third.
That’s when the Yankees called on Trevino to dial up some of the magic that has made his surprising All-Star-caliber first half so special:
Looking respectfully at Jose Trevino's average sprint speed (24.7 ft/s). https://t.co/NgUscafcOD— Lindsey Adler (@lindseyadler) June 21, 2022
Did it take Ji-Man Choi bobbling a throw from Vidal Bruján to create that run? Of course, but to Lindsey Adler above and everyone else who has followed the Yankees in 2022, it’s not a shock at all to see Trevino be the one to make it happen with his hustle. The error made it 2-0, Yankees.
As this was all going on, Cole had regained control of his potential no-hit bid. After that long fifth, he was at 86 pitches, but he made quick work of the Rays in the sixth and seventh to give himself a shot at going all the way. Tampa second baseman Paredes did not cooperate though, as he began the eighth by lining Cole’s 105th pitch up the middle for a clean single. The no-no attempt was over, and after a scary 415-foot fly out to center from Josh Lowe, Cole was gone as well. But what an effort it was:
Ace of Ks. @GerritCole45 pic.twitter.com/fFAleSr2Ap— New York Yankees (@Yankees) June 21, 2022
With Aaron Boone appearing to want to stay away from Michael King for a second-straight day after using him for 35 pitches on Saturday, he called on the reliable Holmes for a five-out save. The closer had gone at least five outs on three previous outings in 2022, so it wasn’t an ask that daunted most Yankees fans. He of course hadn’t allowed a run to score on him since Opening Day (31.1 consecutive innings, tied for the third-longest streak in franchise history), but he hadn’t even allowed an inherited runner to score since April 26th.
The Rays are unfortunately a team that is not easily daunted though, and for the first time all year, Holmes blew the lead. The real damage came on a missile double from pinch-hitter Francisco Mejía down the right-field line, a bit past Rizzo’s dive. Holmes got weak contact from the next two hitters, but sometimes, that’s all it takes. Yandy Díaz’s soft grounder to Holmes’ first-base side scored one run, and Manuel Margot flicked a 64.1-mph dribbler to third that knotted it up at 2-2. The double was on Holmes, but what followed were the breaks that are ultimately hard to avoid in a long scoreless-inning streak.
Thankfully, these Yankees have shown a propensity for shaking off rare missteps, and they immediately did so in the top of the ninth against a pretty good reliever of the Rays’ own in Jason Adam. The right-hander entered play on Monday with a 0.68 ERA and 0.638 WHIP. He rarely allows baserunners, but the Yankees also managed to get hits off him in two of their three previous games with Adam on the mound in 2022. Donaldson singled to left, and Hicks slashed the decisive blow of the ballgame with an RBI triple to right:
Margot suffered an ugly-looking knee injury on the play and was down, helping Hicks reach third and Donaldson score. But Hicks deserves full credit for blistering that ball 356 feet and off the wall. For the second time in three games, he came up with the key hit.
After Trevino plated Hicks with a much-appreciated insurance run on a sacrifice fly, Wandy Peralta entered to close it out. Looking to rebound after an uncharacteristically bad outing in the blown series finale against Toronto, the left-hander still made fans sweat — though it wasn’t entirely his fault. He issued a leadoff walk to Bruján, and after getting Harold Ramírez to fly out to Joey Gallo on a basket catch, he got a double-play ball from Paredes. However, third baseman DJ LeMahieu picked a bad time for his first error of the season, and he threw it away.
Peralta now had to face Lowe as the potential winning run with the tying run at first. He recovered from down 2-0 to the rookie to strike him out with paint on the outside corner, and while Mejía had been able to conquer Holmes, he couldn’t do the same to Peralta. A popup to Hicks in left field ended the chaotic ballgame.
Exhale and enjoy the 4-2 victory, everyone. The Yankees and Rays will reconvene at the same time tomorrow night at Tropicana Field, with Nestor Cortes set to face a bullpen game plan led by Jalen Beeks from Rays skipper Kevin Cash. First pitch is at 7:10pm ET.