We had seen this script before. On a day where the eyes of New York were firmly focused on two-time NCAA National Champion Jalen Brunson and the New York Knicks, the New York Yankees appeared to waste yet another solid start from ace Gerrit Cole, as the Cleveland Guardians jumped out to an early 2-0 lead and the Yankees offense looked helpless. Led by Anthony Volpe and Willie Calhoun, however, the Yankees mounted a comeback, snapping their losing streak with a solid 4-2 victory.
From the start of the night, it was clear that Cole did not have his best stuff. He walked leadoff hitter Steven Kwan to open the game, opened the second with six straight balls and put runners on first and second with nobody out by plunking Andrés Giménez. All in all, he struggled with command in the early innings.
As aces do, however, Cole battled, striking out Mike Zunino, Will Brennan, and Myles Straw—all looking—to keep the Guardians off the board in the second.
Gerrit Cole, Painting with Flames. ️ pic.twitter.com/BW5G0JbT1p— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 2, 2023
It was in the third inning where the Guardians were finally able to cash in on their baserunners. After Kwan grounded out to second to open the inning, Amed Rosario and José Ramírez singled to put runners on first and second. Josh Naylor grounded a double 77.1 mph off the bat down the right field line, scoring Rosario and putting runners on second and third with one away; Bell would then walk to load the bases, setting the stage for the big inning.
Looking for the double play, Cole got Giménez to hit a soft groundball to first base; unfortunately for the right-hander, it was too soft for Anthony Rizzo to do anything except step on the bag for the second out of the inning. Zunino then struck out for the second time that night to end the threat, but the damage was done. Cleveland had a 2-0 lead, and considering how the Yankees offense has been of late, that felt as insurmountable as 10-0.
From this point on, Cole buckled down, allowing just two more baserunners — one of whom reached on a swinging bunt down the first base line that Cole lobbed into right field. When his night ended after the sixth, he had allowed just two runs on five hits, tallied eight K’s and three walks, and had limited opposing batters to a .257 xBA. This was arguably Cole’s worst start of the season, as he tied season-highs in runs and walks and failed to at least start the seventh for just the second time since Opening Day. If this represents a “bad” start, though, then I’m okay if he looks like this every time out.
Unfortunately for Cole, the Yankees offense looked absolutely hopeless. After Volpe led off the game scorching a line drive 100.6 mph off the bat to right field that found the glove of Will Brennan and Rizzo singled in the first, the Yankees did not have another have a batter even come close to reaching base until Oswaldo Cabrera drilled a 105-mph comebacker off Cleveland pitcher Tanner Bibee with two outs in the fifth, reaching second on a single and an E1.
While nothing would come of Cabrera reaching base in the fifth, it proved to be a sign of things to come. After Aaron Hicks flew out to left to start the bottom of the sixth, Volpe participated in some rookie-on-rookie violence against Bibee by depositing his third career home run 345 feet into the right field seats to put the Yankees on the board:
Gleyber Torres followed that up with a big double to right field, chasing Bibee from the game; this represented the first time since LeMahieu and Torres hit back-to-back homers in the second inning on Thursday in Texas that the Bombers had two extra-base hits in the same inning (a 50-inning stretch!). Rizzo followed that up with an RBI single the other way that tied the game, and while the slow-footed first baseman would kill the rally by getting thrown out trying to steal second, it was enough.
Ron Marinaccio and Wandy Peralta combined to shut down the Guardians in the top of the seventh, setting the stage for Willie Calhoun to play the unlikely hero in the bottom of the inning.
The struggling outfielder/designated hitter chose the perfect time for his first Yankee home run, drilling it 370 feet at 106.2 mph deep into the right field seats.
Josh Bell opened the top of the eighth with a single. Giménez attempted to bunt over Gabriel Arias, who had pinch-run for the leadfooted designated hitter. Peralta fielded the ball, turned, and threw the ball to second as he fell. All the ingredients for a disaster were there. But, channeling the other Anthony (Rizzo), Volpe stretched like a first baseman to not only keep the ball from careening into center field, but to get the out.
Volpe may have just saved the game pic.twitter.com/uTzFp2HYVW— Talkin' Yanks (@TalkinYanks) May 3, 2023
At that, manager Aaron Boone brought in Michael King, who struck out Zunino and Brennan to end the frame.
In the bottom of the eighth, Volpe manufactured an insurance run. He opened the inning with a single, stole second while Rizzo was at the plate (he would fly out to center), swiped third, and scored when LeMahieu slashed a single to right.
This is Anthony Volpe’s 10th stolen base of the season. He has not been caught stealing. pic.twitter.com/HWOzQvFGv9— Jeff Middleton (@jjmid04) May 3, 2023
Had the rookie shortstop not gotten himself to third, he does not score on that play, and while the Yankees did not ultimately need that insurance run, it allowed King to pitch a scoreless ninth with a little bit of wiggle room.
The ace reliever struck out Straw to open the inning, got Kwan to ground one to Torres at second, and after walking Rosario on four pitches, induced a groundout to second from the dangerous Ramírez to secure the victory and snap the losing streak.
Wandy Peralta earns his second win of the season, improving to 2-0, while Michael King secures his second save of the year; Cleveland reliever James Karinchak drops to 0-4 with the loss. With the win, the Yankees avoid dropping below .500 for the first time this season, as they improve to 16-15 (unfortunately, they still remain in the basement of the AL East).
The Yankees and Guardians finish up their series tomorrow with the rubber game of their three-game set. Cleveland ace Shane Bieber gets the ball for the Guardians, while the Yankees send out the scuffling right-hander Clarke Schmidt in an Amazon Prime game. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 pm ET, and as always, we will have you covered here.