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NEW YORK — Gerrit Cole talked about how much he enjoyed pitching in games like this. On Saturday, he compared these must-win regular-season games to the playoffs and said he enjoyed the challenge. But there was very little for the Yankees ace or the fans to enjoy on Sunday. Cole allowed a season-high 10 hits to a struggling Cleveland team and was booed as he walked off the field.
The Bombers took an embarrassing 11-1 loss at the Stadium.
The Yankees (83-67) are losing ground fast in their pursuit of a playoff spot against teams they should be beating up on, like Cleveland (73-74) which is just now, with two weeks left, creeping up on being a .500 team. Instead, Cleveland took two out of three and the Bombers fell two games in the loss column behind the Red Sox and Blue Jays in the race for the two American League Wild Card spots.
Cole gave up seven runs, including two home runs. He walked one and struck out seven. It was the sixth time this season Cole allowed multiple homers and the first time since he gave up three in Fenway on June 27.
The ace was supposed to be the firewall against losing streaks and the horse that would carry them down the stretch. Instead, Cole put the Yankees’ struggling offense into a hole early and cost them one of their most disastrous losses of the season.
They have the struggling Rangers coming into the Bronx for three games beginning on Monday, but after that any path to the playoffs has to go through teams that have given them trouble. They head to Boston where they face the Red Sox, who they are 6-10 against this season. Then they go to Toronto to face the Blue Jays, who swept a four-game series against them last time the two faced each other. They close out the regular season with the American League East-leading Rays, who they are 7-9 against this season.
Aaron Boone announced Sunday Cole would pitch on regular rest despite the scheduled off day on Thursday. That means the ace will be able to pitch in all three of those crucial series if necessary. He would face the Blue Jays on regular rest in the middle game of the three-game series and then would be able to come back on short rest to pitch the final game against the Rays if necessary.
That also depends on how Cole feels. The ace left his start Sept. 7 with hamstring tightness, but came back strong to pitch five solid innings against the Orioles last week. It did not look like his hamstring was bothering him on Sunday. Cole struggled with his command, specifically with his slider, his put-away pitch.
It was pretty clear early it wasn’t going to be Cole’s day. He began the game by getting ahead of Bradley Zimmer 0-2 and then hitting him.
With a one-out walk to Jose Ramirez, Cleveland scored on Harold Ramirez’s single. After a clean second inning, the top of Cleveland’s order pounced on him again. Zimmer and Jose Ramirez singled this time to be driven home again by Harold Ramirez. Cole pitched a clear fourth, but gave up a lead off homer in each of the next two innings to Jose Ramirez and Roberto Perez.
Cole was once again trying to carry a Yankees offense that has been inconsistent at best this season. After hitting five home runs on Friday, the Yankees were held to three runs Saturday and outscored 22-4 over the two games. They went down quickly at the end with eight of the last nine Yankees batters striking out, including all three in the ninth inning.
Gio Urshela’s homer off the top of the right field wall was the only run they managed off Eli Morgan, who came into the game with a 6.03 ERA.