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Yankees 11, Guardians 2: Bombers back Gerrit Cole in big win

The Yankees’ bats roared back to life after a quiet game on Monday night.

MLB: New York Yankees at Cleveland Guardians
Gerrit Cole throws a pitch in the second inning of tonight’s game. He led the Yankees to victory, battling through seven innings.
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees evened up their series with the Guardians with an exclamation point, stomping them to the tune of a 10-2 blowout. Gerrit Cole saw Shane Bieber recover from a rocky first last night and decided that he could do that as well, pitching seven innings of quality work after a two-run opening frame from Cleveland. The New York offense jumped on Hunter Gaddis in a big third inning, and it was smooth sailing from there.

Steven Kwan started off the night by getting good wood on a high and inside fastball, singling to center. Gleyber Torres then couldn’t quite come up with a hard-hit grounder off the bat of Andres Giménez. What could have been a double play turned into another single; meanwhile, the Yankees had failed to capitalize on a José Ramírez error in the top half due to an Aaron Judge baserunning gaffe. I began to wonder whether the story of tonight would once again be one of missed opportunities for the Yanks. Ramírez himself doubled to deep right after Giménez’s hit, bringing Kwan home, and Josh Naylor brought in Giménez with a sac fly.

Josh Bell strode to the plate next. After his first three four-seamers didn’t exceed 95.3 mph, far below his season average, Cole turned up the heat and caught Bell looking. Then, Torres redeemed himself, handling a 99.4-mph Will Brennan hotshot, to get Cole out of the jam with the score still just 2-0, Cleveland.

The Yankees got their first run back in the top of the second. The bottom half of the lineup came through, as Oswaldo Cabrera singled with one out and then moved to second on a Franchy Cordero groundout. Jose Trevino singled him home with a 100.4-mph screamer through the hole on the right side.

The Yankees added another in the top of the third. DJ LeMahieu led off with a bounding ball (expected batting average of .070) that somehow managed to hug the third base line for a double. After a Judge strikeout, the Cleveland starter Gaddis hit Anthony Rizzo in the ankles. The first baseman shrugged it off, and the Yankees had first and second with one out. A seven-pitch walk of Torres loaded the bases for newcomer Willie Calhoun, who spoiled three two-strike pitches before whacking a 101.7-mph liner into center for a game-tying base hit.

The bases remained loaded for Cabrera, who worked the count full and then brought in Rizzo with a sac fly. The scoring easily could have ended there, but with two on and two out, Cordero took a first-pitch changeup deep to right for a 368-foot homer. It was the surprising corner outfielder’s third homer in just his 21st plate appearance of the season, and he now leads the team in RBIs.

The Yankees continued to pile on in the next inning. Aaron Hicks, LeMahieu, and Judge started things off with back-to-back-to-back singles, knocking Gaddis out of the game. LeMahieu and Judge’s singles each exceeded 100 mph off the bat, and Rizzo welcomed the new pitcher, Tim Herrin, with an over-100-mph single of his own, scoring Hicks. Torres* then grounded into a double play, scoring LeMahieu to make it 8-2, Yanks.

*Something to track: Torres was removed from the game in the ninth, as he tweaked his right hip flexor/groin area. Manager Aaron Boone didn’t seem worried and no tests are scheduled, but cross your fingers for Torres anyway.

Later, in the sixth, Hicks and Judge started another rally with a pair of singles. Rizzo brought home Hicks once again with another single, and Judge crossed the plate on a wild pitch. Rizzo himself scored after a walk in the top of the ninth for the Yankees’ last run of the night, bringing the score to 11-2.

Cole didn’t have his best stuff. Besides the low velocity to start things out, Cole only managed 3 whiffs through his first 57 pitches. He then got three in one at-bat against Mike Zunino, but didn’t net a single one thereafter, through 33 more pitches. All told, his 6.2-percent swinging-strike rate represented a marked downturn from the 16.1-percent rate that he had through his first two turns.

At the same time, kudos to Cole for battling, especially after a tough first inning, and giving the Yankees bullpen a much-needed breather. For what it’s worth, the Guardians did have the lowest whiff rate in the league last season, so success against them doesn’t always look the same as success against other squads. Cole’s two runs allowed in seven innings are certainly nothing to scoff at, but it can be easy to nitpick his performances when he’s set the bar so high.

For the rubber match of the series, tomorrow afternoon at 1:10pm EDT, Clarke Schmidt will toe the slab. He’ll look to bounce back after a pair of poor showings to start the season. The Guardians have yet to announce their starter.

Box Score