Yankees starting pitcher Frankie Montas throws during the first inning...

Yankees starting pitcher Frankie Montas throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022, in St. Louis.  Credit: AP/Jeff Roberson

ST. LOUIS — In theory, Frankie Montas’ Yankees debut could have gone worse.

In real time, though, it’s hard to envision how.

Making his first start since July 26, the Yankees’ newest starting pitcher lasted all of three innings, very much fitting in to an overall atrocious afternoon of pitching by both clubs.  

After a 4-hour, 25-minute hailstorm of hits and walks and a total of one 1-2-3 inning out of a possible 17 on a suffocating 96-degree afternoon, the Yankees dropped their fifth straight game (all since the trade deadline), taking a 12-9 loss to the Cardinals in front of a sellout crowd of 46,472 at Busch Stadium.

The Yankees (70-39), who outhit the Cardinals 16-11 and went a more-than- respectable 6-for-18 with runners in scoring position after a 1-0 loss Saturday night,  left 12 on base and struck out 13 times. They are 9-16 in their last 25 games and 21-23 in their last 44.

The clubs totaled 12 walks, with the Cardinals (60-48) getting eight free passes en route to their seventh straight victory.    

Frustrated with the strike zone of veteran umpire Ed Hickox — whose zone was wildly inconsistent for both teams — Yankees manager Aaron Boone was ejected for a league-leading sixth time. Pitching coach Matt Blake soon followed, getting tossed for the second time this season. Boone said of his ejection: “We all watched the game.”  

Montas, 4-9 but with a 3.18 ERA with the A’s at the time of his trade last Tuesday to the Yankees, actually had a 1-0 lead after the top of the first and a 4-1 lead after the top of the second. But very much showing the rust of a pitcher taking the mound for the first time in 11 days, Montas allowed six runs, five hits and three walks. He allowed five runs in the second, capped by a two-out, three-run homer by Nolan Arenado, who also had an RBI single and a double and went 6-for-11 with five RBIs in the series.

 “I wanted to go out there and show them what I can do,'' Montas said. "That was not the case today, but this is not my last one. This was my first one.”

Montas had been on the bereavement list after the death of his mother-in-law and Boone said of the time off: "That’s not ideal. Just his situation. Obviously getting traded, dealing with the family stuff he’s had to go through, definitely not an ideal situation for him. But that said, I think he just as easily could have come out and dealt. Certainly a tough situation for him, but he wanted to be out there, he wanted to compete. We felt like he was ready to go and got this first one out of the way. He’s going to do big things for us.”

Cardinals righthander Adam Wainwright, 8-8 with a 3.11 ERA coming in, wasn’t dramatically better, allowing six runs, eight hits and four walks in four innings.

The Yankees trailed by just 9-8 entering the bottom of the eighth, but Scott Effross allowed a two-out, three-run homer by Paul DeJong   to make it 12-8. That cushion became important when DJ LeMahieu hit his 12th homer in the ninth.

DeJong entered the series hitting .140, but he contributed what proved to be a game-winning two-out,  two-run double in the eighth inning of the series opener and drove in six runs in the series.

One bright spot for the Yankees: Entering the game, Aaron Hicks was hitless in his last 32 at-bats, Gleyber Torres was 1-for-26 and Andrew Benintendi was 2-for-25, but the three went 8-for-14, with Hicks and Torres picking up three hits each. Another bright spot: Aaron Judge had a two-out, two-run single in the second that gave the Yankees a 4-1 lead and added a  two-out, two-run double off the base of the centerfield wall in the fifth to tie the score at 6-6. That gave him an MLB-leading 97 RBIs, two more than the Mets' Pete Alonso. 

After Judge’s double, Boone objected to a called strike on Matt Carpenter  that clearly was outside  and was ejected. Before the Cardinals came to bat in the bottom half, Blake was ejected by third-base umpire Vic Carapazza, presumably for continuing to chirp about Hickox’s strike zone.

Neither team was thrilled by the work of Hickox — who also had an out call at the plate overturned by replay — but both Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina and Yankees catcher Jose Trevino immediately went to his aid in the eighth inning when Hickox took a foul ball by Trevino directly off his mask. Molina prevented him from falling, with Trevino right behind him, and Hickox was able to remain in the game.

The Cardinals took the lead for good at 9-6 with three runs in the bottom of the fifth on DeJong's RBI double off Albert Abreu, Tommy Edman's two-out RBI single  off Jonathan Loaisiga and Paul Goldschmidt's bases-loaded walk against Lou Trivino. Trevino’s RBI single with the bases loaded and Marwin Gonzalez’s forceout made it 9-8 in the sixth. 

“I’ll take nine runs all the time,'' Boone said. "We’re swinging the bats well. We had one game where we got shut down yesterday. Otherwise, we’re having the right kind of at-bats. They kept us in the ballpark, other than DJ there at the very end, and that’s the difference. But we keep having this level of at-bats and contributions up and down, we’ll be fine.”

Said LeMahieu, “We’re definitely going through it right now. Frustrated with how we’ve played but still feel really good about our team and how we’ve done this year as a whole . . . It just seems like when we get good pitching, we don’t hit, and vice versa. These last five games, we’ve kind of been grinding like that.”




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