Ineffective Cole, Yanks unable to solve Rays

September 1st, 2020

NEW YORK -- kicked his right foot against the clay of the Yankee Stadium mound, trying to explain the disconnect between his mechanics and the results. For the second time in a week, the Yankees’ ace felt as though he was locked in, but so was the opponent.

As Cole permitted loud contact around the yard, the Yankees continued to search for answers against a tough American League East rival. The first-place Rays withstood a pair of late homers to hand the Yankees a 5-3 loss on Monday evening, marking the Bombers’ seventh loss in eight games against Tampa Bay this year.

“It certainly doesn’t ease the pain,” Cole said. “I’m pretty hard on myself as it is. I definitely know how important the game was, so I’m wearing it.”

Ji-Man Choi and Kevin Kiermaier homered off Cole, who has lost two consecutive starts for the first time since April 2019. Though manager Aaron Boone sees improvements in Cole’s mechanics, the right-hander has permitted at least one homer in each of his eight starts as a Yankee and is now tied for the Major League lead with 12 allowed.

“It's a little surprising,” Boone said. “Hopefully that comes down as he continues to execute a little bit better. Sometimes those mistakes can turn into slug, so I think he's been bitten by that a little bit here in a few outings. I don't expect it to become a trend.”

Though Cole seemed most irked by issuing four walks, Choi remained a personal nemesis. The left-handed-hitting former Yankee improved to 9-for-17 (.529) with six extra-base hits in his career against Cole, including the postseason.

“He covers the bottom of the zone well,” Cole said. “Even if he's fooled slightly, his bat path allows him to loft the ball to right field, which can result in extra-base hits. I don't really have an answer on Ji-Man at this point.”

Tampa Bay collected four runs and eight hits over five innings against Cole, with 10 of the 15 balls put in play registering exit velocities of 95 mph or greater -- including Kiermaier’s 110.2 mph second-inning missile to the second deck in right field.

That tied Cole’s highest hard-hit percentage since Statcast was incorporated in 2015. Cole allowed five runs to the Braves in his last start, and of Cole’s 20 runs allowed this season, 16 have come via homers.

“It's been back-to-back starts where I felt really good,” Cole said. “To not get rewarded for it or probably underperform ... it just eats at me a little bit. With what we had today, we should have pitched better.”

Nothing doing
The Yankees had difficulty breaking through against right-hander Tyler Glasnow, who carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning. DJ LeMahieu reached with a replay-reviewed infield single, the first of two knocks against Glasnow, who struck out nine over six scoreless frames.

“That fastball-curveball combination is a big challenge,” Boone said. “If you're going to have success, you've got to be able to lay off pitches when he gets you to leave the zone. We didn't do that well enough tonight.”

Gio Urshela broke up the shutout in the seventh, greeting reliever Edgar García with a solo homer, Urshela’s sixth of the year. Luke Voit later claimed a share of the Major League lead with his 13th home run, a two-run shot off García in the eighth inning.

“[Tampa Bay] came out hot tonight; it’s baseball,” Voit said. “We had them last year and they’ve gotten us this year, but we’ve still got two more games to catch up in the standings.”

Numbers game
Miguel Yajure enjoyed a sharp Major League debut, tossing three scoreless, hitless innings. Rated as the Yankees’ No. 15 prospect by MLB Pipeline, the 22-year-old Yajure permitted three walks and struck out two.

Yajure spent most of last season with Class A Advanced Tampa, making two appearances for Double-A Trenton. Yajure was the first Major Leaguer to wear uniform No. 89, which was the last remaining double-digit number that had not been worn in a big league game.

“I knew there wouldn't be any fear. He's got a lot of confidence,” Boone said. “He mixed pitches really well, threw a lot of good changeups and was pretty efficient. That was a big pick-me-up for us tonight.”