Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda, Yanks Dim Rays

AP Photo/Scott Audette

Woulda, shoulda, coulda!

If the Yankees “woulda” played more games like last night, they woulda probably be headed to the post season.

“Shoulda” they have played more games like last night?

If the Yankees “coulda” played more games like last night behind Gerrit Cole, he woulda probably locked up the AL Cy Young Award by now.

Cole was once again superb, D.J. LeMahieu hit two home runs and the Yankees scored a feel good, 6-2 win over the Tampa Rays at the Trop Friday night.

It was the Yankees’ second win in their last 12 games and they’ll certainly take it. “We’re taking it day by day, trying to put our best foot forward and taking a lot of pride in what we do,” Manager Aaron Boone said. “We want to go out there and win ballgames and I thought it was a complete game tonight.”

There was no doubt that Cole was going to bounce back from his worst outing of the season when he gave up six runs in four innings against Boston last Sunday. “It was one of those ones where you try to learn from it. You just try to figure out what went wrong, what can you do better,” Cole said.

The Yankees ace added to his AL Cy Young resume’ by pitching into the eighth inning, while he allowed two runs, one earned on three hits with a season tying high of 11 strikeouts.

Cole improved to 11-4 and lowered his league leading ERA to 2.95. He also leads the American League in innings pitched (168), Opp OPS (.611) and WAR (4.6). “I just made some mechanical adjustments this week,” said Cole who was smiling after this one. “The results were definitely there so it was a good adjustment.”

Unlike his previous start, Cole had real good stuff. Boone thought that may have been Cole’s best outing of the season. “As good a year as he’s had, that might be up there with as good as he’s been,” Boone said. “The fastball was so good. The life to it, the shape of it, the command of it.”

LeMahieu has rediscovered his game with three hits in this one and three home runs in his last three games, after only hitting two in his previous 56 games. “Just one of those days seeing it good and felt really good at the plate,” he told YES Network’s Meredith Marakovits after the game on the field.

The game was scoreless through four innings. Cole was putting up zeroes but so was Tampa Bay starter Zack Elfin, who had 8 strikeouts through four and finished with 11 Ks in six innings of work.

With two out in the fifth, LeMahieu broke the scoreless tie when he drove a 2-1 breaking pitch from Eflin into the left center field stands for a 1-0 lead.

After Cole struck out the side in the bottom of the fifth, the Yankees padded their lead in the sixth.

Gleyber Torres, who continues to swing a hot bat, singled to lead off the inning and Giancarlo Stanton walked, putting two on with nobody out. Isiah Kiner-Falefa lined out to short and Anthony Volpe lined out to left as it appeared Eflin would wiggle out of trouble.

Eflin had no trouble with Everson Pereira in his first two at bats as he fed him a steady diet of sliders and struck him out twice. This time, Pereira was down 0-1 when he saw a fastball from Eflin and drove it into right center field for a single and his first Major League RBI to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead.

AL batting leader Yandy Diaz took advantage of Cole’s lone mistake to put Tampa on the board. Diaz got a “hit the crap out of me,” hanging slider over the center field wall for his 17th home run to cut the deficit to one run.

In the 7th, the Yankees did something they have not done a whole lot this season and that’s break a game open.

Tampa replaced Eflin with side arming right hander Trevor Kelley who got Ben Rortvedt for the first out, but walked LeMahieu and Aaron Judge to put runners on first and second.

Torres’ ground double to left to scored one run and Stanton followed with a line drive double to left center to plate two more and give the Yankees had a 5-1 lead.

LeMahieu’s second home run of the game off of Kelley with two out in the eighth capped off the scoring for the Yankees. Since the All Star break, LeMahieu is batting .311 with an OBP of .423.

Boone said LeMahieu made an adjustment with his lower half. “Getting on his backside a little bit. Building a little speed in his swing. He’s a little faster,” Boone explained. “Rifles the ball up the middle against Eflin, then gets a hanger and hits it out and off the side armer (Kelley), to be able to ride one out of there as well.”

Cole’s pursuit of his first Cy Young award will provide some interest in the final month of this dismal season.

When asked if he thinks about winning the award, he said, “Not much, I don’t want to get distracted. It’s not something that I’ve thought about my whole career so I’m just sticking with what I’ve done in the past.”

The soon to be 33-year old did offer some insight into his thinking when he pondered the idea of winning the award. “It would be just a blessing, to represent the organization with and to represent the hard work that’s gone on behind the scenes from the catchers to the pitching staff, coaching staff. It would mean a lot,” Cole said.

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