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Yankees 3, Mariners 7: Cole’s awful first sets tone for series loss

Cole was too little, too late in getting his stuff under control, and it cost the Yankees a chance to win.

MLB: Seattle Mariners at New York Yankees Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The rubber match of this three-game series was a showdown between two aces in their respective rotations. For the New York Yankees, Gerrit Cole needed a great start, and that did not come to pass in any way, shape, or form. He gave up three home runs in the top of the first inning to immediately put the Yankees in a 6-0 deficit that they couldn’t escape from against a pitcher as good as Luis Castillo. The end result was a 7-3 loss that puts the once-thriving Yankees at 14-15 since the start of July.

Cole was simply demolished from the get-go. By the time he recorded his first out, Eugenio Suárez had belted a three-run blast and Carlos Santana had taken him deep for a solo shot. Cole did get Kyle Lewis to go down on strikes after a JP Crawford single, but Jarred Kelenic then blistered a two-run homer to put Seattle up by six. This is the same Kelenic who was demoted to Triple-A in wake of an awful start to 2022 and was hitless since being recalled on July 31st.

Bad things are bound to happen when these are the locations of your pitches:

Gerrit Cole home run pitch locations
Baseball Savant

As Josh pointed out on Twitter, this was not so much pitch tipping as it was simply putting the ball on a tee. In one inning pitched to that point, Cole gave up five hits, six earned runs, one walk, two strikeouts, and three home runs on 35 pitches. On the other side, Castillo had a good start to his Seattle Mariners career, only giving up one hit to Matt Carpenter in the first inning with no strikeouts.

Cole managed to get through the second inning unscathed. The Yankees plated a run thanks to an Isiah Kiner-Falefa single up the middle that drove Andrew Benintendi home from third after he walked, stole second, and moved over to third on an Aaron Hicks groundout. Another run could have been plated if not for a very confusing send on Kiner-Falefa from third base coach Luis Rojas. The play at the plate wasn’t even close, and with two outs, a significant deficit, and the red-hot Anthony Rizzo on deck, the Yankees took an unnecessary risk.

After the baserunning gaffe, the pitchers continued to look more comfortable and mow down the opposing lineups. Cole struck out the side twice and retired 16 of 18 batters after the worst inning of his career. Meanwhile, Castillo retired 10 straight Yankees batters before consecutively walking DJ LeMahieu and Carpenter with one out in the bottom of the sixth inning. He escaped the frame despite the two men on base after frustrating-to-watch at-bats from Josh Donaldson and Benintendi.

Cole’s day ended after an awful first inning and strong final five innings. He struck out eight batters and walked only one, and without his terrible start, the Yankees would have been in a much better spot to win the game. His season ERA is 3.56, and the pressure is only going to increase on him as we get closer to October with a rotation that already has a number of question marks after the Jordan Montgomery trade.

Manager Aaron Boone went to Wandy Peralta in his bullpen, who, despite getting a double play, gave up a home run on a breaking ball to Jesse Winker to make the game 7-1, Mariners. It was a quick yank for the reliever, and Jonathan Loásiga replaced him to face Suárez, who grounded out to end the inning.

Castillo started the seventh inning, but after giving up a base hit to Kiner-Falefa and then a surprising two-run home run to Kyle Higashioka with two outs, his day ended. He finished with a line of 6.2 IP, five hits, three runs, three walks, eight strikeouts, and 108 pitches. The inning ended after Rizzo flew out into the shallow outfield grass.

Ron Marinaccio, seen warming up in the first inning while Cole was pitching horrendously, came in to pitch the eighth. After giving up a single, he returned with a double play and a strikeout to end the frame. It was just another strong showing in a season of strong showings for the young right-hander, and after the Yankees went down in order, new addition Lou Trivino tossed a perfect ninth to keep it vaguely within reach at 7-3.

Did the Yankees have a rally in their bones against Paul Sewald? No, they did not. Benintendi flew out to Winker in left, Gleyber Torres popped up to Adam Frazier in the infield, and Hicks popped up in foul territory to Frazier as well, and the game ended at that same 7-3 score. If it weren’t for the abhorrent first inning from the Yankees’ ace, we could be talking about a different outcome. The hitters without Aaron Judge in the lineup could not overcome a monumental task against an excellent starter.

The Yankees have an off-day tomorrow and start a series against the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday in St. Louis with first pitch at 8:15pm ET. Nestor Cortes will get the ball for New York, and while Oli Marmol has not yet announced the Cardinals’ starter, it could very well be Jordan Montgomery.*

*Update: The Cardinals will actually use Montgomery on Saturday against Domingo Germán instead. Seems appropriate. No announcement has been made about Friday yet.

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