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Yankees 3, Cardinals 4: Missed chances, blown lead doom Bombers to loss

The bullpen couldn’t hang onto a late lead, as the Yankees dropped the series opener in St. Louis.

New York Yankees v St. Louis Cardinals Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

If you were to be given a box score of this game with everything visible except the runs, you would probably think the Yankees won this game fairly easily. They outhit the Cardinals 10-5 and drew five walks. Several members of the heart of the order had multi-hit games, including Aaron Judge, Matt Carpenter, and Josh Donaldson. Although there were no home runs, that still seems like a pretty good recipe for an above average offensive game.

That is not what happened. While the Yankees put up all those hits, they went 3-for-11 with runners in scoring position and ended up stranding nine runners on base. That ended up with the Yankees putting up just three runs and leaving them vulnerable if a reliever or two happened to have an off game.

That would be exactly what happened. While Nestor Cortes was pretty good, the bullpen couldn’t hold onto the lead for him, with Clay Holmes’ rough stretch continuing and culminating in an eighth-inning blown lead. Whereas the Yankees went 3-for-11 with RISP, St. Louis went 4-for-8, allowing them to rally past the Yankees with a 4-3 win.

The Yankees got the game off to a solid start when they picked up a run in the first inning. After DJ LeMahieu led off the game with a single, Judge hit a 117-mph line drive, but it just happened to go right to Tyler O’Neill in left field. However following him was Carpenter, who got a very nice reception from Cardinals’ fans for his very good career in St. Louis. When the ovation died down and he stepped in, Carpenter singled, putting runners on the corners. Donaldson then got one to drop in deep center field, getting the Yankees on the board with a double.

The Yankees missed out an a chance to add to the lead in the second, and the Cardinals would take advantage and strike back in the bottom of the inning. While Cortes walked Nolan Arenado to start the frame, he then got two outs to get on the verge of ending the inning. He couldn’t finish the deal, though, walking Paul DeJong before Yadier Molina singled home a run.

In the third, the Yankees answered right back, courtesy of a couple of names that helped get them on the board to begin with. With Judge and Carpenter on first and third after both singling, Donaldson added another single and another RBI to his tally.

Judge then struck again to start the fourth with a single that knocked Cardinals starter Dakota Hudson out of the game. In the ensuing at-bat, Judge would steal second and move up to third on a Carpenter groundout. That put him in the perfect position to then score on a Gleyber Torres infield single.

Other than the hiccup in the second inning, Cortes mostly moved along swiftly after that. Including the last out of the second, he retired 12 of the last 14 batters he faced. The final batter in that sequence would be a Paul Goldschmidt walk that would be the end of Cortes’ day. It was a bit of a quick hook, but considering that he’s nearing his career-high innings total at any level, the Yankees probably had an eye on that. His final line would be two runs allowed on one hits and four walks in 5.1 innings.

You may notice that he finished with two runs allowed, only one of which has been described. That’s because the Yankees couldn’t strand the runner he left on. Albert Abreu was the choice to relieve Cortes, and he quickly both threw a wild pitch and allowed a single to Arenado. Although he got an out after that, he couldn’t close the deal on the inning, giving up a RBI single to O’Neill. Recent trade acquisition Scott Effross would then replace him and finally managed to get out of the inning. Effross went on to throw a scoreless seventh as well, working around a Molina walk.

With the heart of the Cardinals’ order due up, Clay Holmes was sent in for the eighth. He didn’t even fare too badly against the toughest hitters in the order, but his funk would continue. After getting Goldschmidt to ground out, Arenado reached on an infield single to third that died before a play could be made on it. After getting a strikeout, Holmes then couldn’t put away O’Neill despite going up 1-2 in the count, issuing a walk. DeJong would take advantage of the Cardinals’ life in the inning, doubling to score both runners and give the Cardinals the lead.

In the ninth, the Yankees had one last chance when LeMahieu drew a one-out walk against Cardinals All-Star Ryan Helsley. However, Judge and Carpenter couldn’t bring him home, sealing the Yankees’ fate. They are now 14-16 since the start of July, though with the Blue Jays’ loss to the Twins tonight, their AL East lead remains 10.5 games.

A lot of the Yankees’ success in the first half came because they did not have too many games like this. They were typically pretty good about driving runners home, and when they got leads they usually didn’t lose them. That was not the case in this one. They’ll have to pick it back up tomorrow night against old friend Jordan Montgomery, who will be out for payback after his trade on deadline day. He’ll face the man who the Yankees seemingly trusted over him for the stretch run, Domingo Germán, with first pitch at 7:15pm ET.

Box Score