Yesterday was the Yankees’ opportunity. Gerrit Cole was struggling to find it on the mound, and he did not look like the pitcher who could win the Cy Young Award this year and who dominated the Tampa Bay Rays in the Division Series. No, this Cole was more human and facing a deep Yankees lineup.
In the game, Cole would walk five batters, which is the most he’s walked in a game since June 18 of last year. During his dominating 2019 regular season, he had only struck out fewer than eight batters just seven times over his 33 starts. Through it all, the Yankees couldn’t plate a run against Cole.
What makes it all the worse is the Yankees had their chances.
In the first, the Yankees had first and second with one out, and they’d load the bases with two outs. That inning would end on a Didi Gregorius ground out. The following inning, they had runners on first and second with two outs, but they’d fail to score a run with Aaron Judge striking out. That would become a theme in the game.
That same situation presented itself in the fourth and the fifth innings. The fourth inning rally ended with DJ LeMahieu lining out to George Springer. In the fifth, Gregorius hit a ball everyone but Josh Reddick thought was out of the park. Reddick nestled under the ball right in front of the right foot wall to secure the third out.
In the end, the Yankees not only blew four run scoring opportunities, but they would blow a golden opportunity to get a victory in a game started by Cole. This came a game after the Yankees blew an opportunity to beat Justin Verlander.
In that game, they’d blow a 2-1 lead on a Springer fifth inning homer. As that game went into extra innings, the Yankees were supposed to have the advantage with a purportedly superior bullpen to the Astros. Yet, it was Carlos Correa hitting the walk-off homer in the 11th off of J.A. Happ.
For the Yankees, they had a chance to win a game against both Verlander and Cole, and they couldn’t take advantage of it. With Verlander and Cole set to go twice in this series, the Yankees are going to have to win at least one of the games they start if they have any hopes of making it to their first World Series in a decade.
As the American League is well aware, beating Verlander and Cole is much easier said than done. In fact, the Yankees know better than any team how difficult it is to beat Verlander in the postseason. In fact, this is the fifth time the Yankees have faced off against Verlander in the postseason with Verlander’s teams winning the series the previous four times.
If the Yankees don’t want to make it a fifth, they are going to have to find a way to win a game started by either Verlander or Cole. They had that chance in consecutive games and blew it. It is hard to imagine those opportunities will present themselves again, and as a result, it is very possible, the Yankees already blew their chances of going to the World Series.