The Yankees entered this game where they wanted to be: with their ace on the mound with a chance to win a fourth straight series. While Gerrit Cole wasn’t at his best, he battled and ultimately turned in a quality start, but the rest of his team couldn’t hold up their end of the bargain in a frustrating 4-1 loss.
Though Cole’s first trip through the Cardinals order was smooth in the end, he did have some trouble in the first. The Cards graciously helped him out of it, though, something that would recur later in the game. A walk and single to open the frame put two on with none out, but St. Louis attempted a double steal, with Jose Trevino gunning down Brendan Donovan at third. With the first out gratefully in hand, Cole worked through the inning without incident from there.
St. Louis aided Cole again in the third. Cole hit Donovan with a pitch with one out, and Lars Nootbar, the Cardinals’ nominal two-hole hitter, laid down a bunt, giving himself up for the second out. Cole retired Paul Goldschmidt on a groundout to end the inning. A pitcher as good as Cole doesn’t need to be handed free outs, certainly not twice in the three innings.
Cole had navigated the first third of the game without damage, but the Yankee offense looked listless against old friend Jordan Montgomery. The only real fireworks early on came in the top of the third, and they were thanks to Aaron Boone. The manager got himself ejected arguing an awful third strike call from umpire Dan Merzel, who had rung up DJ LeMahieu on a pitch well above the zone:
That’s Boone’s fifth ejection on the year, pushing him back into the major-league lead after having been tied with Rocco Baldelli, Bob Melvin and David Bell.
The Cardinals finally broke the dam in the fourth as Cole’s command faltered. Nolan Arenado led off with a double, and Alec Burleson blooped a single to put two on. Cole then hung a slider that Jordan Walker lined up the middle for an RBI single. After a fly out, Andrew Knizner lined another RBI single on a changeup Cole left up and over the plate. Anthony Volpe helped hold the line there, snagging a hard grounder up the middle from Tommy Edman to turn two and end the frame with the Yankees down 2-0.
Meanwhile, Montgomery continued to cruise. The lefty had his old teammates off balance all afternoon, with the Yankees in particular entirely unable to square up his secondary stuff at all. Montgomery’s change and curve both generated heaps of whiffs and looking strikes, and though the Yankees worked a few walks through the first five innings, Montgomery carried a no-hitter into the sixth.
There, Gleyber Torres at last got the Yankees into the hit column, lining a double down the right field line to give them both their first knock and first real scoring threat. But Montgomery flew out Giancarlo Stanton to strand the runner.
That would ensure Cole would exit after six innings and a two-run deficit. Cole’s command hurt him in that two-run fourth, but he otherwise fought capably. He had his fastball really working for most of the day, generating several swings and misses and touching 100 mph. His even 98 mph average on the pitch was his highest on the season. That at least is a very good sign, that Cole looks as physically strong as he has all year now that we’re reaching the dog days of summer.
Montgomery came back for the seventh with the no-hitter gone, and the Yankees managed to touch him on his third trip through the order. Isiah Kiner-Falefa reached on a dropped third strike and advanced when Anthony Volpe tried to push bunt for a hit. Jake Bauers drove Kiner-Falefa home with a booming duoble off the wall, but Giovanny Gallegos came on to whiff pinch-hitter Billy McKinney and strand the tying run.
The score now 2-1, Jimmy Cordero relieved Cole and failed to keep the Yankees on the Cardinals’ heels. Cordero struggled to control his fastball, falling behind Tommy Edman before the infielder lined a leadoff single, and then falling behind Donovan. In a 3-1 count, Donovan sat dead-red, enabling him to climb the ladder and smoke an elevated fastball for a back-breaking two-run homer and a 4-1 lead:
The Cards tacked on an insurance run in the eighth thanks to some sloppiness from New York. Dylan Carlson singled to lead off and advanced on a wild pitch. Carlson then stole third, and Kyle Higashioka uncorked a poor throw into left, allowing Carlson to come all the way home.
The Yankees just weren’t sharp today, with the Cardinals outplaying them in every phase of the game. As always, it is just one game, but it leaves a sour taste in the mouth to miss a chance to win a series against a last-place opponent with your top arm on the mound. The Yankees will regroup quickly, flying back to New York tonight ahead of a matchup with the rival Orioles. That three-game set will go off tomorrow night at 7:05 pm EST.