Not even Gerrit Cole could save the Yankees from sinking further into the depths of despair.
The $324 million ace tried to play the role of the stopper Sunday and delivered a strong start, but the scuffling offense still came up empty as the Yankees dropped a fifth straight game and were swept by the Rays with a 4-2 loss at Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees (5-10) mustered just three hits as the Rays (8-8) continued to have their number, improving to 5-1 against the Yankees this season and 15-3 against them since September 2019.
The last time the Yankees won was Cole’s previous start on Monday against the Blue Jays, but he couldn’t snap them out of their funk on his own. He gave up three runs (two earned) while striking out 10 over 6 ¹/₃ innings, but was burned by some poor defense in a two-run third inning before giving up the go-ahead run in the seventh.
Cole took the mound at 98 pitches to begin the seventh inning in a 2-2 game, having retired 12 straight batters. After Mike Brosseau struck out, Joey Wendle lined a single and Yoshi Tsutsugo ripped a double to the right-center field gap to put the Rays up 3-2 and end Cole’s day.
Wendle later took Darren O’Day deep in the ninth inning for an insurance run.
Giancarlo Stanton had given the Yankees — off to their worst start since 1997 — their first lead of the series in the second inning when he ripped a solo home run to the short porch in right field. It was the first time the Yankees had led in 22 innings, dating to the sixth inning of Wednesday’s loss to the Blue Jays.
It didn’t last long, though, as the Yankees gave it right back in the top of the third, courtesy of a few costly defensive gaffes from their outfield. Mike Zunino singled to lead off the inning before Kevin Kiermaier hit a bloop to center field. Aaron Hicks tricked Zunino, faking like he was going to catch it before it fell. He could have gotten the force out at second, but he bobbled the ball and Zunino reached safely.
Yandy Diaz came up next and grounded a game-tying RBI single to center field, where Hicks again couldn’t field it cleanly, allowing Kiermaier to take third base. That proved costly when Manuel Margot hit a sacrifice fly to left field for the 2-1 lead. Even that play did not go smoothly, as Clint Frazier fired the throw into no-man’s land between the mound and first base, allowing Diaz to tag up and slide into second safely. But Cole was able to work out of the jam with a strikeout.
The Yankees came back to tie it in the fifth inning, when Gio Urshela led off with a double and eventually scored on a two-out, RBI single from DJ LeMahieu. But with the crowd on its feet hoping for more, Aaron Judge struck out to strand a pair of runners.
LeMahieu later had another chance to play hero, sending a charge into the crowd with a fly ball to right field in the seventh inning, but it fell into the glove of Margot on the warning track.
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