The Yankees picked up where they “left-on.”
It was like watching a bad rerun. Gerrit Cole pitched a solid seven innings-plus but the Yankees took the term, “lack of clutch hitting” to a new lower level as they blew numerous golden opportunities to score in a 5-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox.
On Sunday, the Yankees left 15 men on base in a demoralizing, 9-7 loss to the Astros. Monday night, they left 13 men on base, were 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position and could only produce one run (sacrifice fly) in three opportunities with the bases loaded, twice with no one out.
The Yankees are now 5½ games behind the Toronto Blue Jays for the final American League Wild Card spot. It’s a deficit that can be overcome if the Yankees got hot, but they show no inclination of being able to go on a run and their inability to score runs make that (games behind number) a tougher hill to climb.
Cole was asked if the Yankees can overcome the deficit and make the playoffs. “It’s a grind, there’s gonna be ups and downs all year, we just keep trying to fight to get that big upswing,” Cole said. “It’s right there in front of us, we have the opportunity to do so, so that’s what we’ll keep working towards.”
Before last night, Cole had been unbeaten in playing the role of stopper this season. The Yankees were 9-0 when Cole took the mound after a loss, but the ace gave up 4 runs in 7+ innings pitched, although he pitched better than his line showed and deserved a better fate.
The Yankees have failed to back Cole’s efforts as Yankee Manager Aaron Boone lamented after the game. “You got your ace on the mound, we gotta go throw some [runs] up there because he did his job tonight,” he said.
The Yankees have made a habit of letting struggling right handed pitchers find their game and this one was no different. White Sox starting pitcher Dylan Cease couldn’t find the plate in the early going. After 12 walks on Sunday, the Yankees had 7 walks in the first four innings, but no hits and no runs.
In the second, the Yankees loaded the bases with no one out after Cease walked Billy McKinney, D.J. LeMahieu and Harrison Bader. Anthony Volpe flied out to short left as the runners held. Ben Rortvedt followed with his own short fly to left that failed to plate a run. Jake Bauers ended the threat by bouncing back to the mound as Cease wiggled out of trouble.
The Yankees loaded the bases again in the sixth, this time with one out.
LeMahieu, who has been showing signs of life the past few weeks, singled for the first Yankee hit off of Cease, who was lifted after 104 pitches. (LeMahieu is 25 for 81, .309 over his last 20 games) Bader and Volpe singled off of reliever Brent Honeywell to load the bases for a second time.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa pinch hit for Ben Rortvedt but failed to score a run after he flied out to short right field. The frustration festered when Bauers ended the inning by grounding out to first, as White Sox first baseman Andrew Vaughn, who had put the White Sox on the board, made a nice defensive play to keep the Yankees off the board. “Looked like he [Vaughn] was playing on the line there, made a good play, beat me to the bag,” Bauers said.
Cease gave up one hit with seven walks and six strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings. “His stuff was nasty and kind of effectively wild so it made him difficult to hit,” Boone said. “That said, we had a lot of chances and we gotta capitalize.”
In the seventh, the Yankees again loaded the bases with no one out against White Sox reliever Lane Ramsey. McKinney brought home the only run with a sacrifice fly to center but LeMahieu and Bader struck out to end the rally.
Frustrations boiled over in the 8th. After Volpe was called out on strikes, Boone was tossed by home plate umpire Laz Diaz for arguing balls and strikes. White Sox reliever Bryan Shaw, who came into the game with over a 6.00 ERA, finished the 8th by striking out the side as five straight Yankees went down on strikes.
Vaughn’s two run homer in the second off of Cole gave the White Sox a 2-0 lead. Yoan Moncada walked on a 3-2 pitch and Vaughn connected on a 2-1, 97 MPH, 4-seam fastball and drove it over the left center field wall to get Chicago on the board. “It was on the corner inside, it was down too much,” said Cole.
The White Sox blew the game open by scoring three runs in the eighth. Cole began the inning but was lifted after back to back singles by Gavin Sheets and Elvis Andrus.
Tommy Kahnle came in and committed an error on a sacrifice bunt to load the the bases with no one out. Unlike the Yankees, the White Sox cashed in their opportunity. Former Yankee Andrew Benintendi scored a run with a sacrifice fly and Luis Robert doubled in two more to give the White Sox a 5-1 lead.
Aaron Judge snapped out of an 0 for 13 skid with two hits, including a hard hit double in the ninth. Giancarlo Stanton took an 0 for 4 collar and is now 0 for his last 10.
At this point of the season, the Yankees are battling the schedule as well as the other Wild Card competitors. The Yankees have not been a good road team (23-27) and have 31 of their final 49 games on the road.
Two more games with the White Sox (who have won 3 of 4 vs. Yanks) on this pivotal road trip, followed by three in Miami and three in Atlanta. By the time this current 9-game road trip is finished, the Yankees playoff chances may be hanging by a thread, but Bauers remains optimistic.
“It’s no secret that things haven’t really been going our way, Bauers said. “At some point, everything’s gonna turn around, we’re gonna get hot, we’re gonna win some games and September’s gonna come around and we’re gonna be right in it.”