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Yankees 7, Rockies 8: Cole’s mastery overshadowed by catastrophic loss

The Yankees’ ace K’ed 11, his 24th outing with double-digit strikeouts since signing, but the bullpen blew it (and how).

Cole pitching against the Rockies.
Cole pitching against the Rockies.
Photo by Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

Thanks to an 11-strikeout game from Gerrit Cole and some shoddy Colorado defense, the Yankees seemed poised to take the rubber match of their first second-half series. But the bullpen suffered meltdowns in the eighth and ultimately the 11th as the Bombers dropped their first series of the second half to the National League’s worst team. If that sentence sounds bad, be warned that it somehow felt ever worse to behold. The Yankees are just a disaster right now, full stop.

Cole himself actually ran into a little Coors trouble early on, giving up a deep opposite-field fly to Michael Toglia:

The homer didn’t make much noise off the bat, and it only had an expected batting average of .250 based on the exit velocity and launch angle; it joined the five percent of homers this year hit softer than 97 mph off the bat. But it kept carrying in the thin Colorado air to make the score 1-0.

With a pair of ground-ball singles from Oswaldo Cabrera and Jose Trevino, as well as a Giancarlo Stanton walk, the Yankees loaded the bases with two outs in the next half-inning for Anthony Rizzo. But a 10-pitch at-bat ended in a soft flyout, and the Rockies remained ahead:

In the top of the fifth with one out, Cabrera and Trevino did their job at the bottom of the order again, this time reaching via a walk and hit by pitch. As the lineup flipped over, Gleyber Torres moved Cabrera over to third with a flyball to right field. But Stanton couldn’t execute this time, flying out weakly on a first-pitch cutter.

The Rockies didn’t want to risk Chase Anderson running into another jam, so that spelled the end of the day for him. He had just one strikeout against two walks, but his cutter, which he threw just as often as his four-seamer, was very effective. The cut-piece notched strikes on 25 of 31 offerings including eight balls in play, only one of which — the Trevino single — went for a hit. Anderson had allowed 27 earned runs in his previous 13.1 innings coming into today, but the increase in cutter usage — up from 24.4 percent to 36.5 — could be what was behind his effectiveness today rather than the Yankees’ offensive fealty.

Sure enough, as soon as Anderson was lifted from the game for Jake Bird, the Yankees struck. After Rizzo lined out to begin the inning, the Yankees put together three straight groundball singles, the final two (courtesy of Harrison Bader and IKF) off the bat at over 102 mph. LeMahieu, proprietor of the first single, scored easily on IKF’s knock, and Colorado center fielder Brenton Doyle opted to throw to third. Bader was in there easily too though, and IKF was leaning off of first, so third baseman Ryan McMahon quickly threw over. But the throw was way off target, enabling Bader to score and IKF to scramble all the way to third. All of a sudden, the Yankees had a 2-1 lead:

With IKF on third and just one out still, the Rockies chose to move the infield in for Anthony Volpe against Bird, and the Yankees shortstop obliged with a grounder to short. But the usually sure-handed Ezequiel Tovar juggled the ball, and his only play was at first. IKF scored, making it 3-1 Yankees:

That appeared to be all the run support Gerrit Cole and the Yankees’ bullpen needed. The Toglia home run was really Cole’s only blemish; he allowed just one other hit — a single — in six innings, and around that base knock, he struck out 9 of 10 Rockies. On the day, he punched out 11 for his 24th double-digit K game as a Yankee, passing Ron Guidry for the franchise high.

As for the bullpen, Wandy Peralta tossed a perfect seventh, but then Tommy Kahnle (who hadn’t given up a run this season prior to this series) ran into some trouble in the eighth. His bread-and-butter changeup didn’t have its usual bite, and he yielded a walk and two hits before being lifted with the bases loaded and two out. The Yankees then brought in Clay Holmes, a staple at the backend of the pen this summer. But his sinker didn’t bite so much either, resulting in a most inopportune time for him to allow his first homer of the year:

Things moved to the ninth with the Rockies up, 5-3. Daniel Bard, who’s demonstrated shaky control all year, came on for Colorado. Sure enough, he hit pinch-hitter Billy McKinney (in for Jose Trevino) to start things off before McMahon’s defense came to the Yankees’ aid again when Gleyber Torres rolled a soft grounder to third. On a bang-bang play, McMahon opted to make the throw instead of eating it, and he threw it away once again. McKinney came around to score and Torres moved to second:

Stanton, perhaps struggling to readjust to the DH role, just got under one in the next at-bat, flying out to center to move to 0-4 (with a walk) on the day. Next, Rizzo worked a walk and then Bard walked LeMahieu intentionally to load the bases for Harrison Bader with one out. The center fielder flew one out to left for a sac fly, but pinch-runner Oswald Peraza (in for Rizzo) was thrown out at third trying to snag an extra base on the throw home, ending the inning:

Ian Hamilton came on for the bottom of the ninth, firing his first perfect inning since returning from the IL at the end of June, and the game went to extras tied at 5.

Bader began the top of the 10th as the zombie runner for the Yankees, but he was promptly thrown out at third trying to advance on an IKF tapper:

The Yankees then opted not to steal with IKF, a move that ultimately resulted in Volpe grounding into a double play and ending the inning. Luckily, Hamilton fired another scoreless frame to keep the game even heading into the 11th.

Volpe began the top half as the zombie runner this time with Cabrera at the plate. With Volpe running on the second full-count pitch of the at-bat, the switch-hitter smoked a grounder, 102.3 mph off the bat, through the right side for an RBI single:

On a Kyle Higashioka (subbed in for McKinney) strikeout, Cabrera stole second, which provided the impetus for a crucial insurance run when Peraza singled him home:

With Ron Marinaccio available, the Yankees inexplicably tuned to Nick Ramirez in the bottom of the 11th, and he immediately gave up a two-run missile to Nolan Jones:

Did I say “inexplicably?” Because then Marinaccio did come on, and he gave up the walk-off homer to Alan Trejo, the infielder’s first of the season in his 128th plate appearance:

The Yankees have to be better, or they risk falling into “seller” territory in advance of the trade deadline, whether Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman like it or not. The bullpen at least has the excuse of having had to pitch in Coors, but the unit’s recent performance trend has been alarming. And while the offense connected for seven runs, they didn’t muster a single extra-base hit.

The Bombers can start picking the pieces up tomorrow in Anaheim against the Angels, should you be brave enough to stay up with us to watch it. They’ll put forth a shaky Luis Severino for tomorrow’s start; he’ll line up against Griffin Canning, with first pitch scheduled for 9:38 pm ET.

Box Score