Gerrit Cole had more problems than giving up two early home runs and Aaron Boone hooking him earlier than the ace would have liked.
Working against the Rays on Wednesday night in front of a lineup that is missing Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and DJ LeMahieu, Cole pitched well enough to win.
Yet, Cole was sabotaged by a lineup that couldn’t figure out six Rays pitchers and a killer fielding error by Zack Britton in the eighth inning that led to a 4-2 loss at Yankee Stadium.
It was the Yankees’ fifth loss in six games to the Rays, who moved within one-half game of the AL East leaders. They will try to avoid dropping three straight to the Rays on Thursday afternoon.
“It’s more so on the offense than anything,’’ Brett Gardner said after the Yankees went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position, managed four hits and struck out 14 times. “It’s up to us to solve Tampa’s pitching and give him a little more run support.’’
Adding to the frustrating night was Britton reaching for the back of his left thigh after giving up an RBI single to Willy Adames in the eighth and grimacing as he walked off the mound. Boone said Britton was being examined after the game.
As for Cole, he didn’t hide his displeasure about being lifted with two outs in the seventh and the score tied, 2-2.
“I was in good position to finish it,’’ said Cole, who allowed two runs, six hits, walked one, struck out 10 and was very animated in the dugout. “He made the move before he even got out there so it didn’t really matter whatever I said to him on the mound. What I said in my glove I will leave it at that.’’
Cole gave up solo homers to Ji-Man Choi in the second and Mike Zunino in the third. Luke Voit’s homer in the third off Tyler Glasnow and Gio Urshela’s sacrifice fly in the sixth tied the score, 2-2.
Britton replaced Cole and recorded the final out of the seventh, but the eighth was a mess thanks to him not fielding Voit’s toss at the bag that ignited a two-run Rays rally that was the difference.
Despite the Yankees’ woes at the plate, they had a chance in the ninth thanks to Chaz Roe walking Gleyber Torres and Gary Sanchez to start the inning. Gardner, who had three hits in his previous 25 at-bats, failed to advance the runners with a fly ball to center.
With Mike Tauchman ready to hit, Rays manager Kevin Cash summoned lefty Jalen Beeks. That led to Boone dusting off Miguel Andujar to hit for Tauchman and Andujar whiffed. So did Thairo Estrada to end it.
Boone thought about letting the left-handed swinging Tauchman face Beeks but opted for the right-handed hitting Andujar, who has very limited experience pinch-hitting.
“I felt that was our shot there and felt like if Miggy could have put a charge in one there. So there was consideration of staying with [Tauchman], but ultimately the matchup called for Miggy,’’ Boone said.
Boone said it was the first time Cole said anything to him when removed from a game this year. And knowing Cole’s competitive juices, it won’t be the last time the pitcher gets agitated because he knows the responsibility that comes with a $342 million contract to be the Yankees’ ace.
Boone didn’t let Cole’s disappointment tarnish a strong outing.
“I thought Gerrit threw the ball incredibly well,’’ Boone said of the right-hander, whose 109 pitches were a season high. “I thought that was as dominant as we have seen him.’’
As for Cole being upset about leaving, that flowed off Boone’s shoulders.
“That’s the competitor in him,’’ Boone said. “He is an ace and he wants the ball.’’
And a few more runs wouldn’t hurt, either.
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