ST. PETERSBURG -- Gerrit Cole closed his eyes and kicked at the dirt of the Tropicana Field mound, having watched his 105th and final pitch of the afternoon pop out of Brett Gardner’s glove for a costly error.
Two runs scored on that play, sealing what was arguably Cole’s roughest start since joining the Yankees, and the view didn’t improve much from the dugout. The Rays continued to slug in a 10-run sixth inning, handing the Yankees a 14-0 defeat on Sunday in the finale of a three-game series.
“I probably just ran out of good pitches at that point,” Cole said. “Sweeps are tough. Up against a wall, the other team typically surges into a little fight or flight. It’s going to be really hard when your starter puts you down, 4-0, in the first.”
The lopsided outcome produced an off note to cap a set in which the Yankees had plenty to be pleased about, taking the first two games and completing a blockbuster trade with the Rangers to import slugger Joey Gallo and left-hander Joely Rodríguez, both of whom are expected to be with the club on Friday in Miami.
Yet the Yankees could not complete the sweep, falling to 4-10 in potential sweep games this year.
“It’s hard to win a series on the road, much less sweep,” Gardner said. “It seems like for the last few years, it’s been tough to come down here and win one game, much less two or three. We just came out kind of flat today.”
The Yanks were shut out for the sixth time this season, collecting only four hits -- three off right-hander Luis Patiño, who navigated six innings while breezing to his third career victory.
Thursday’s defeat marked the Yankees’ largest shutout loss since a 16-0 drubbing on Aug. 27, 2007, against the Tigers in Detroit, where Mike Mussina lasted three innings and watched the bullpen give up 10 runs.
“Credit to Patiño; I thought he threw the ball really well,” manager Aaron Boone said. “He was very tough on us. We just weren’t able to mount much. We hit a few balls to the warning track but couldn’t get enough going. We’ve done enough offensively here to win ballgames, but today was a case where we were shut down.”
The first four Tampa Bay batters reached in the first inning against Cole, with Yandy Díaz singling home a run before Austin Meadows reached the seats for a three-run homer. Cole shifted to a fastball-heavy approach and worked his way into the sixth, retiring 16 of the next 17 after Meadows’ homer.
“I picked up a little bit of the pace through the delivery,” Cole said. “I thought that I had better leverage on guys and got a chance to find the breaking ball and good changeups.”
Two hits and a walk loaded the bases with one out in the sixth for Kevin Kiermaier, who drove a liner that Gardner couldn’t corral. Gardner said that he was blinded by the stadium lights as he searched for the ball.
“It was a play that I’ve made hundreds and hundreds of times,” Gardner said. “I don’t want to say it was routine, but I took my eye off the ball. When I turned back around to pick the ball up, I just picked up some lights. It obviously affected my vision. The ball just squared me up in the chest. I tried to catch it, but I wasn’t seeing clearly.”
With Cole lifted, Albert Abreu allowed all six batters he faced to reach base, surrendering a grand slam to Brett Phillips, a two-run homer to Ji-Man Choi and a two-run shot to Meadows. The 14 runs allowed were a season most for the Yanks, and Gardner wondered if catching Kiermaier’s drive would have avoided that.
“It’s just very frustrating for me,” Gardner said. “Even when things aren’t going well at the plate, I’ve always taken a lot of pride in being able to do a good job out there on defense and make a difference. If I make that play, maybe Gerrit gets out of that inning and it’s still a five-run game. Things really unraveled.”
Cole was charged with eight runs (seven earned) on six hits over 5 1/3 innings, walking two and striking out 10. Cole joined Hippo Vaughn (1912) as the only Yankees to allow eight or more runs while striking out 10 or more batters, and the eight runs allowed were his most as a Yankee.
“We’ve had some opportunities to sweep and maybe not had some stuff go our way,” Cole said. “But in respect to this series, this one’s on me.”