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Yankees 7, Marlins 8: Disastrous ninth by Clay Holmes sinks Yanks

A pair of home runs from Anthony Volpe and Ben Rortvedt went naught after Holmes choked away a four-run lead in the ninth.

New York Yankees v Miami Marlins Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

The Yankees desperately needed this game. If they have any hope of a playoff run, they need to start winning series. Stacking Ws. And they could not have really asked for more, with Gerrit Cole taking the mound this afternoon. A couple of home runs, five stolen bases, and another stellar outing from Cole should have been enough. But this team. Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Today marked Cole’s 100th start for New York. Fitting then, that he punched out Bryan De La Cruz for the final out of the first with a 100-mph heater. He had to work a little harder than he would’ve liked, thanks to a tight strike zone and some shoddy defense at first base. No harm, no immediate foul though.

The Yankees got to Marlins super-prospect Eury Pérez in the second. Harrison Bader led off with a walk then stole second. Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who came into today hitting .321 with RISP, then knocked one up the middle and Bader scored easily.

IKF then stole second, marking an early trend. Get on base and run on the Marlins pitchers. Unfortunately, he remained there after Anthony Volpe popped up and Ben Rortvedt struck out. But the early run meant Cole was working with a lead, tenuous though it was.

The Marlins conferenced on the mound with one out in the third prior to Judge coming up and Pérez pitched very carefully, walking him. That ultimately ended up backfiring. Stanton, facing a full count, finally got ahold of a Pérez slider, right after Paul O’Neill warned from the booth about throwing the slider in the strike zone. Big G ripped it into left and Judge, bad toe and all, roared around to extend the lead.

Cole, meanwhile, was fighting, though it was apparent he didn’t have his best command. Though he escaped a clean second inning, his pitch count was at 38. In the third, he surrendered a leadoff hit to Joey Wendle and walked Jacob Stallings. Two on with no one out. All told, five of the first nine Marlins to face Cole worked full counts. It’s not what you want. Cole managed to get two outs and if Volpe could’ve handled the transfer on what could have been a double play he might have escaped the inning.

Alas, Luis Arraez managed to punch a hit to left, getting one run back. Cole escaped without further damage but his pitch count was now 59 through three. A couple of quick innings were fast becoming necessary if Cole was long for this game.

For once, the offense immediately bailed out their pitcher. After a McKinney leadoff single, Volpe came to the plate and turned a 97-mph fastball on the inner half into a two-run blast out to left. Two home runs in the series for the rookie, who’d scuffled at the plate coming into this series. 4-1 New York. No matter how this season ends, Volpe’s home stretch is one of the most important subplots the Yankees have.

The fourth was the end of the road for Pérez. Though this not his best start, it’s easy to see why he’s a blue-chipper. Huascar Brazoban relieved him to begin the fifth and, take a shot if you’ve heard this before, walked Aaron Judge, the slugger’s 18th free pass since returning to the lineup.

Torres replaced Judge on the bases after a fielder’s choice, and went to work. He stole second. On the next pitch he stole third. And on the pitch after that, he scampered home on a wild pitch that got just far enough away for him to slide in. A fielder’s choice RBI from McKinney plated another run later in the inning, making it 6-1 Yankees.

Meanwhile, Cole was racking up those clean innings I mentioned earlier. Though he allowed a hit in the fourth, a double play ground ball negated that. In the fifth, a fly ball and a pair of quick strikeouts got Cole back to the dugout. All of a sudden, he was through five with 81 pitches. Six innings, maybe even seven, now looked feasible if the Yankees needed it.

The offense kept the gas pedal down in the sixth. Rortvedt, with no one on, smoked a ball out to right. His first homerun of the season, and his first as a Yankee.

Infuriatingly, Miami would not go away despite trailing by six. After Cole walked Josh Bell on four pitches, Arraez notched his second hit, poking a ball through the right side. Two on and no one out. Cole managed to get the first out of the frame but Jake Burger followed with an RBI single to cut the lead to five. In arguably the most critical at-bat of the game to this point though, Cole induced a first pitch pop-up from Yuli Gurriel to end the frame and, in all likelihood, Cole’s afternoon.

Six innings was indeed the end for Cole and Wandy Peralta came on to relieve the Yankee ace. His final line: 6 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 K. Not Cole’s best outing but he did everything the Yankees could have asked to put the team in position to win a game they really needed. Peralta promptly retired Miami in order.

There was a little bit of drama in the top of the eighth after home plate umpire James Hoye rang up Volpe on a low fastball after an abomination of a called second strike. Up five, Aaron Boone kept his temper, but assistant hitting coach Brad Wilkerson got himself ejected for his verbal feedback to Hoye.

With one on in the eighth, Boone went to Keynan Middleton to face the righty De La Cruz and the move backfired immediately. An RBI double cut the lead to 7-3. Middleton staunched the bleeding there, however, and sent this to the ninth with the Yanks up four. In the ninth, though it was not a save situation, Boone turned to Clay Holmes.

And that’s when this one went completely off the rails. Double. Single. Walk. E1 that scored two runs. Two-run RBI triple from Arraez. Before you could say “the 2023 Yankees are cursed,” the game was tied with the winning run on third and one out. The only question now was whether Tommy Kahnle could escape the inning after Boone yanked Holmes from his meltdown.

And the answer to that question, of course, was no. Burger drove in the winning run despite the Yankees having the option to walk him with a base open. Whatever.

I don’t know where the Yankees go from here. It feels like this franchise is spiraling down with no sign of stopping. Immediately, they are headed into the lion’s den, to face the Atlanta Braves. The series starts tomorrow at 7:20 pm EDT. Clarke Schmidt is on the mound and we’ll have all the action here so join us as we see how the Yankees fare against the juggernaut Braves.

Box Score