The wait for 61 goes on, but we sure as heck will take the win. The Yankees’ offense recovered from another Gerrit Cole meltdown, grinding out five runs with key contributions from the bottom of the lineup while Jonathan Loáisiga led the bullpen with two innings to secure a narrow 5-4 victory.
Cole entered the contest needing 12 strikeouts to tie Ron Guidry’s single-season franchise record of 248 set in his 1978 Cy Young campaign, and he seemed to be on a mission to equal if not surpass that total tonight. He fanned the first two batters he faced, but then the other less desirable narrative that’s defined his season cropped up. Cole led the AL with 29 home runs surrendered entering tonight’s contest, and he extended his lead atop that ignominious leaderboard, serving up a solo shot to Tommy Pham to put the Yankees in a 1-0 first inning hole.
New York tied the score in the third on a solo home run from a hitter named Aaron, though not the Aaron you might expect. With Judge on deck, Aaron Hicks crushed a ball 405 feet to left-center to give him an even 100 for his career, and more importantly level the score at 1-1.
Not much happened until the bottom of the fifth, with Hicks once again providing the unexpected spark. Isiah Kiner-Falefa led off the inning with a single, followed by a Marwin Gonzalez walk to put runners on first and second with no outs. Up stepped Hicks, who laced a groundball single to left to give the Yankees their first lead of the night, 2-1.
The Yankees weren’t finished in the inning, either. With two outs, Gleyber Torres unloaded on a first-pitch cutter, ripping a double to left to score Gonzalez and Hicks and make it 4-1, Yankees.
Hicks & Gleyber for the lead pic.twitter.com/kd0OWB6nXd— New York Yankees (@Yankees) September 24, 2022
With a three-run lead and seemingly his A-plus stuff, Cole appeared to be perfectly situated to go deep and possibly challenge that franchise strikeout record; however, the classic Cole meltdown that has happened on far too frequent a basis reared its ugly head again. He allowed Kiké Hernández and Rafael Devers to reach on a double and walk respectively to put two on for Alex Verdugo. After getting ahead 1-2, Cole missed with a borderline fastball that could’ve gone either way. He didn’t get the call, and instead of turning the page and executing his next pitch, he grooved a middle-middle fastball that Verdugo crushed into the seats in right to erase the Yankees’ lead and knot it at four apiece.
After getting the final out of the inning, Cole made a beeline for the home-plate umpire Brian Knight, shouting obscenities, and when the dust settled, both he and manager Aaron Boone had been run from the game.
It’s just a really bad look from Cole to lose focus, throw a temper tantrum, and then look to foist responsibility upon others, as if it was the home plate umpire who made him throw one down Broadway to Verdugo. Like with so many of his starts this year, Cole looked stellar until he allowed things spiral out of control, letting one moment torpedo the entire outing. His final line: six innings, five hits (two home runs), four runs, two walks, and eight strikeouts on 103 pitches.
The Yankees’ offense on the other hand stayed locked in, reclaiming the lead in the eighth. Harrison Bader drew a two-out walk while pinch-hitting for Oswaldo Cabrera, and went from first to third on an errant Matt Strahm pickoff attempt. This allowed catcher Jose Trevino to knock him in with a single to grab a 5-4 lead that they would not surrender.
Ron Marinaccio worked a scoreless seventh with a pair of strikeouts, after which the team turned to Jonathan Loáisiga for the final two innings since Clay Holmes pitched a pair last night. Loáisiga breezed through the eighth on 13 pitches, but ran into a bit of trouble in the ninth, allowing back-to-back singles to J.D. Martinez and Tristan Casas. However, the Yankees’ 2021 bullpen ace found an extra gear, retiring the next two batters to close out the 5-4 victory.
Combined with the Blue Jays’ loss to the Rays, the Yankees’ magic number to clinch the AL East dropped to four with the win. They’ll look to lower it again and guarantee at least a series victory over Boston tomorrow afternoon. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 pm ET, with Domingo Germán taking on Nick Pivetta as Judge (1-for-4 with a single tonight) aims for No. 61 once more, so be sure to join us in the game thread.