Feisty Cole wants more after striking out 10

August 20th, 2020

NEW YORK -- snarled as he paced on the infield grass, pounding into the pocket of his glove and marching to the top of the mound. Spotting Yankees manager Aaron Boone ambling onto the playing field, he spat an expletive and averted his gaze. The ace right-hander did not want to surrender the baseball.

On a night when Cole competed without his finest stuff, his intensity was on full display. Cole extended his career-long unbeaten streak to 28 starts, but the Rays rallied for two runs in the eighth inning, handing the Yankees a 4-2 loss on Wednesday at Yankee Stadium. It marked the Yanks’ first series defeat in the Bronx since April 12-14, 2019, against the White Sox (27 series).

“I'm just going to keep it at less is more right now,” Cole said, still fuming more than an hour after his exit. “I wanted to finish the game. I think the body of work over the course of today and over the course of the last start speaks for itself.”

Tampa Bay defeated the Yanks for the fifth time in six games, moving ahead after a Zack Britton error, wild pitch and walk set the stage. Third baseman Gio Urshela cut down the lead runner on a fielder’s choice, but Mike Brosseau and Willy Adames stroked RBI singles off Britton, who appeared to sustain a left hamstring injury on his final pitch.

At 99 pitches through six innings, Cole lobbied to remain in the game. Boone acquiesced, permitting Cole to face the bottom of Tampa Bay’s lineup while silently promising not to gamble with having Cole face leadoff hitter Austin Meadows for a fourth time. Boone did not seem surprised to hear that Cole was still upset by that call.

“I think that's just the competitor in him,” Boone said. “He's an ace; he wants the ball. I talked to him a little bit after the sixth when he was at 99, when I was considering making a move. He wanted the ball, so back out he went. I just felt like once he got to Meadows, that was the time to get Britt.”

Cole struck out 10 and walked one over 6 2/3 innings, dinged for solo home runs by Ji-Man Choi and Mike Zunino.

In the seventh, a sharp Urshela play gave Cole the first out, whirling in the shortstop position to flag a Kevin Kiermaier grounder as part of a defensive overshift. Manuel Margot reached on a bunt single, then Cole painted the black with a 98 mph fastball to freeze Zunino, reaching double-digits in strikeouts for the second time as a Yankee.

Cole scattered six hits in the 109-pitch effort, barking into his glove and disappearing down the runway as Britton completed his warmup tosses.

“[Boone] made the move before he even got out there, so it didn't really matter whatever I said to him on the mound,” Cole said. “Whatever I said to him in my glove, we'll just leave it at that.”

Britton struck out Austin Meadows for the final out of the seventh inning, by which time Cole had re-emerged in the dugout, still animatedly talking to himself while teammates stole curious glances.

“He's a guy that probably if he had it his way, he'd go out there and throw 140 or 150 pitches every five days,” Brett Gardner said. “He wants to finish the game when he starts the game, so that doesn't surprise me that he was upset about that. He wants the ball, and we love that about him.”

Tyler Glasnow was impressive while dueling with Cole, limiting the Yankees to two runs over 5 2/3 innings. Luke Voit slugged an opposite-field, second-deck solo home run off Glasnow in the third inning. It was Voit’s fourth homer in the last three games, matching Aaron Judge (nine) for the team lead. Aaron Hicks tripled and scored on an Urshela sacrifice fly in the sixth to tie the game.

Aaron Hicks tripled and scored on an Urshela sacrifice fly in the sixth to tie the game, but the Yankees could not muster more against five Rays relievers. New York has been held to 3.2 runs per game by Tampa Bay pitching this season, compared to 6.2 runs per game against everyone else.

“In order for us to get to where we want to be at the end of the year and be the last team standing, that's one of the teams that we've got to figure out and get through,” Gardner said.