DENVER -- Two words were heard frequently in the Yankees’ clubhouse following their 8-7, 11-inning loss to the Rockies at Coors Field on Sunday afternoon:
“Frustrated” and “capable.”
New York dropped two of three games against the team with the worst record in the National League to open the second half of the regular season.
The offensive futility that had beset the Yankees’ lineup since Aaron Judge was sidelined with a sprained right big toe on June 3 didn’t relent this weekend. And the cloud of inconsistency that has hung over them all season only became more laden with unmet expectations.
Despite a dominant start by Gerrit Cole, in which he struck out 10 or more batters for the 24th time as a Yankee to set a franchise record, New York’s hitters were unable to produce a single extra-base hit in the most hitter-friendly park in the Majors.
Instead, the Yankees managed eight singles and, despite being within four outs of victory on two occasions, watched an uncharacteristic unraveling by their bullpen. New York lost for the first time in its history when it had multiple leads of two or more runs in the eighth inning or later, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
In a season filled with frustration, this weekend brought only more of the same after the Yankees replaced hitting coach Dillon Lawson in favor of Sean Casey in an effort to jolt the offense to life.
Sunday’s wild marathon left the clubhouse at a loss for answers.
“I wish I knew,” Anthony Rizzo said about the ongoing difficulties after playing in his 41st consecutive game without a home run. “It’s frustrating on all ends. Guys have been here and done it for a long time, and we’re frustrated. But we know that’s not going to do anything for us.”
While Cole was overpowering the Rockies for the first five innings, the Yankees’ bats were mute against Colorado starter Chase Anderson, who held New York scoreless over five innings after entering the contest with a 6.89 ERA on the season.
The hitters' hibernation finally ended with consecutive one-out singles in the sixth off Jake Bird by DJ LeMahieu, Harrison Bader and Isiah Kiner-Falefa. Those produced two runs -- one earned and one unearned thanks to a throwing error by third baseman Ryan McMahon. Anthony Volpe followed with an RBI groundout to give the Yankees a 3-1 lead.
With his 11 strikeouts, Cole broke a tie with Ron Guidry for the most double-digit-strikeout performances in the franchise’s 120-year history. He did it in his 95th start for the Yankees, the fewest of any pitcher with 20 or more such outings. Guidry had 23 of them in 323 starts, David Cone had 21 in 144 starts and CC Sabathia had 20 in 306 starts.
“It’s tough [to wrap your head around],” Cole said. “I think that it’s a different era, too. So I think you have to take that into consideration a little bit. But I think the bottom line is, to be surrounded by a lot of great Yankees is something you dream about.”
Cole’s remarkable achievement was soon relegated to the back burner. In the eighth, reliever Tommy Kahnle loaded the bases with two outs before Clay Holmes came in to face C.J. Cron, who launched a go-ahead grand slam. It was the first homer Holmes has allowed this season.
“I think we believe that we’re capable,” Holmes said. “It’s not like there’s not that belief. But I think at the same time, we understand that it needs to happen. One way or another, we need to figure it out.”
The Yankees tied the game in the ninth on Gleyber Torres' RBI single and a sacrifice fly by Harrison Bader. They went ahead on RBI singles by Oswaldo Cabrera and Oswald Peraza -- who was called up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Sunday morning -- in the top of the 11th.
But reliever Nick Ramirez allowed a game-tying two-run homer to Nolan Jones in the bottom of the frame, and Ron Marinaccio came in from the bullpen and surrendered a walk-off homer to Alan Trejo.
Following an All-Star break that offered some optimism with a new hitting coach and news that Judge was continuing to move toward a return to the lineup, a rising hope became hope deferred over three days in Colorado.
“Look, it’s on us,” manager Aaron Boone said. “We know what’s in front of us. We know the expectations on us. … Everyone, I know, is going to talk about it. But we’ve got to go do it.
“The canvas is in front of us to write our own script, and that’s what we’re working hard to do.”