The Yankees found a new and interesting way to lose Sunday afternoon, walking 12 times yet failing to find the big hit they needed to beat the Astros. They would find a similar but still unique way to lose in Chicago tonight, putting traffic on the basepaths all night but steadfastly refusing to bring the runners in with a clutch hit in another brutal loss.
The story of the game was missed opportunity, and the Yankees had their first big chance in the second. Much as they did Sunday afternoon, the Yankees worked their plate appearances and made the opposing pitcher throw strikes, and in this case, Dylan Cease couldn’t find the plate. Control has always been Cease’s bugaboo, and he issued three straight walks to load the bases with nobody out. But Anthony Volpe and Ben Rortvedt both flew out to shallow left, leaving it to Jake Bauers. Bauers chopped one in front of the plate, which looked as though it might get a run in, but Cease made an excellent play coming in on the ball and firing to first to end the inning.
The White Sox immediately made the Yankees pay for their largesse. Cole walked Yoán Moncada with one out in the second, and Andrew Vaughn followed by piping a two-run homer to center:
Vaughn’s 15th of the year was one of those where you sorta have to tip your cap. Cole came with 97-mph heat on the inside black at the knees, but Vaughn did a tremendous job pulling his hands in, getting around the ball and driving it with authority.
Cole was fine from there, even if he wasn’t exactly his best. The White Sox were able to barrel up his fastball a few times early on, and Cole needed some quality defense to help him keep further runs from hitting the scoreboard. Gleyber Torres and Anthony Volpe turned a nifty double play to end the third, and after a pair of singles put two on with two out in the fourth, Harrison Bader made a strong running catch on a well-struck liner from Yasmani Grandal.
The strikeout stuff just wasn’t quite there for Cole, with the right-hander striking out three on the game and generating just two whiffs with his fastball. But after a shaky first few innings, Cole had his command dialed in nicely and kept the ball away from Chicago’s barrels through the middle innings.
As Cole settled in, Cease labored, but as the story goes, the Yankees just couldn’t get the big hit to damage him. The right-hander walked seven batters over the first five innings, but also didn’t allow a hit. The Yankees finally got to him with one out in the sixth, with DJ LeMahieu lining a clean single to left to end the no-hitter and chase Cease from the game.
Harrison Bader and Anthony Volpe followed DJ with singles of their own to load the bases for the second time of the game. Aaron Boone went to the bench and pinch-hit for Rortvedt with Isiah Kiner-Falefa, but IKF could only manage a harmless flyout. Then, Vaughn made his second huge play of the game, this one of the defensive variety. Bauers squared up a fastball from Brent Honeywall, 100 mph off the bat down the right field line, but Vaughn made a magnificent diving stop, sprung to his feet, and barely beat Bauers to the bag:
Vaughn has never rated better than the eighth percentile in terms of Statcast’s Outs Above Average, but he made one of the finest plays of his career to keep at least two, if not three, Yankees from scoring.
The Yankees kept the pressure up in the seventh, and again, the White Sox bended but didn’t break. Judge singled to lead off and break a short hitless streak, Gleyber Torres reached on an infield single that deflected off Moncada’s glove, and Giancarlo Stanton walked to load the bases for a third time. This time, Billy McKinney at least got a run home with a sac fly, but LeMahieu and Bader both struck out with the tying run at third.
In LeMahieu’s defense, strikes one and three were called despite clearly coming in inches off the outside corner.
Home plate ump Laz Diaz called a massive strike zone for much of the night, and to some extent, if an ump is making poor strike calls in the same spot all game, players should try to adjust. With that said, it’s hard to come down too hard on hitters for taking very obvious balls in 0-2 counts.
By the eighth inning, Boone had had enough, and after watching Volpe get wrung up (on a pitch that admittedly had the plate), the manager gave Diaz a piece of his mind and got himself ejected for a league-leading sixth time in 2023. To Boone’s credit, he explored some interesting new space in the creative field of ejections, not only marking how far outside Diaz was calling strikes, but also mimicking Diaz’s strike call:
Aaron Boone had it with Laz Diaz's strike zone tonight and gave us his best strike 3 impersonation upon getting ejected from tonight's gamepic.twitter.com/7opQ5oZ9Ah— Yankees Videos (@snyyankees) August 8, 2023
Boone retired to the locker room, but Cole did not, entering for the bottom of the eighth. Two singles greeted him, and Tommy Kahnle relieved him in a two-on, none-out jam. Kahnle made a bit of a mess of it, committing a fielding error on a sac bunt to load the bases. Andrew Benintendi followed with a sac fly to score a run, and Luis Robert scored two with a double to remove the last suspense from the game. The sequence damaged Cole’s overall line, which settled at seven innings, five hits, four runs, and two walks.
The Yankees went quietly in the ninth, and they fell to 58-55 on the season. Some might say they lost in same way as they did over the weekend, but no, this game had its own particular quirks; all the bases-loaded chances, the rant from Boone, the dominance from Andrew Vaughn of all people, the waste of a solid start from an ace. It all added up to a fresh, yet ever frustrating, way to lose.
The Yankees will have a chance to end what’s now a two-game losing streak (or find another way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory) tomorrow night at 8:10pm ET. Clarke Schmidt will face righty Touki Toussaint.