TAMPA – The last time Gerrit Cole His start at Tropicana Field went from gem to disaster in no time.
That happened on May 7th of this year. The Yanks lost a 6-0 lead with her ace on the mound that day and ended up losing 8-7 in 10 innings. Cole, who had no problems in the first four frames before struggling in the fifth and sixth, gave up six runs, five of which were earned.
The loss was one of the Yankees’ worst in a season that has since been filled with worthy candidates.
But Cole was largely a bright spot for the Yankees in last-place, and on his return to The Trop on Friday, the Cy Young contender stayed true to form with a 6-2 win for the Yankees.
The right-hander lasted 7.2 innings in the opening game of the series, recording four hits, two runs earned, zero walks, 11 strikeouts and 100 pitches before exiting the game to a street ovation. This lowered Cole’s ERA to 2.95.
“I said to him afterwards, ‘That’s about as good as I saw you there,'” Aaron Boone said. “That’s how it looked for me, of course against a really good offensive that knows him.”
Boone particularly praised Cole’s heater and curveball. Cole, meanwhile, noted he spent the week making mechanical adjustments after the Red Sox tagged him for six earned runs in his last game.
Cole credited Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake, pitching director Sam Briend, and an unnamed friend for the tweaks. When asked if this friend’s initials are JV — like former Astros teammate Justin Verlander — a smiling Cole replied, “I’ll just leave it at that, he’ll probably be in the Hall of Fame one day.”
Regarding the adjustments, Cole said: “We just worked backwards from the release point. There’s just a certain inconsistency in getting the ball through and trying to figure out how to give myself a better chance of putting more pure spin through the ball on delivery. I’ve been working hard on that this week. It doesn’t always work out when you see the results right away, but the results were definitely there. It was a good transition.”
The Rays’ first run against Cole came in the sixth when Yandy Díaz hit a home run with no one on base. The pitcher was thrown another run in the eighth when Brandon Lowe hit an RBI single from Jonathan Loáisiga.
The Yankees, meanwhile, scored two runs ahead of Rays starter Zach Eflin.
DJ LeMahieu delivered the first run with a solo shot in the fifth inning, his 10th thing of the year. Everson Pereira then made it 2-0 in the sixth round with an RBI single.
Though the Yankees managed to reach Eflin, he certainly gave them trouble. The right-hander totaled six innings, seven hits, two earned runs, a walk and 11 strikeouts over 103 pitches, creating a line eerily similar to Cole’s.
“I thought Eflin was really good, but I thought our attacks against him were good,” Boone said. “He beat us quite a bit but I think that’s a credit to how well he threw. But we were able to save a lot of balls against him before we even broke through.”
But Trevor Kelley, the first Tampa Bay player to come out of the box, couldn’t contain the Bombers. The sidearmer, playing in the majors for the first time since June 3, allowed three earned runs as the Yankees extended their lead with RBI doubles from Gleyber Torres and Giancarlo Stanton in the seventh.
Kelley then gave up LeMahieu’s second home run of the night, also in solo play, in the eighth inning. The 3-on-4 performance was LeMahieu’s first multi-homer game since May 7, 2021.
“It was so nice to see,” Boone said of LeMahieu, who has scored much better since the All-Star break after struggling in the first half. “I think just a little bit more life in his load, a little bit on his butt. This will make his swing a little faster. So I think he’s a bit faster. He shoots a ball in the middle of Eflin, then gets a hanger and hits it wide. And then when he took off the sidearmer to ride one there too, it was really nice to see that he has that level of bats.”
With a win on the books to kick off a long road trip, the Yankees will look to secure their second straight win since the beginning of July on Saturday. Clarke Schmidt will start against the Rayswho holds the first American League wildcard spot.
Tyler Glasnow will start for Tampa while Zack Littell will pitch for the Rays on Sunday. Carlos Rodón will take over the ball for the Yankees in the series finale.
https://www.twincities.com/2023/08/25/gerrit-cole-dj-lemahieu-power-yankees-past-rays-in-series-opener/ Gerrit Cole and DJ LeMahieu push the Yankees past the Rays in the series opener – Twin Cities