BOSTON — A team general manager Brian Cashman called "unwatchable" after it stumbled out of the gate in April recaptured that form at the worst possible time Tuesday night. As a result, the Yankees will watch the rest of the postseason at home.
With Gerrit Cole not coming anywhere close to honoring the $324 million bestowed upon him as a free agent — lasting only two innings-plus — and the offense pulling a disappearing act all too familiar from certain portions of the season, the Yankees lost to the Red Sox, 6-2, in the American League wild-card game in front of a rocking sellout crowd of 38,324 at Fenway Park that included managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner.
"Sick to my stomach," Cole said. "This is the worst feeling in the world."
The Yankees, who left spring training a heavy favorite to not only win the AL East title but represent the league in the World Series for the first time since winning it in 2009, did neither of those things, finishing 92-70, eight games behind the AL East champion Rays.
"Guys are crushed," manager Aaron Boone said.
The Red Sox, who also finished 92-70 but earned home-field advantage for Tuesday’s game by virtue of their 10-9 edge in the season series, will face the Rays in the ALDS beginning Thursday night at Tropicana Field.
The Yankees, far sooner than they thought possible, were swept into an offseason of uncertainty. That will include a decision about Boone, whose contract is expiring.
"I haven’t had any conversation with anyone about that," he said afterward when asked if he expects to be back next season. "We’ll see. I love being here. Love going to work with this group of players. But we’ll see . . . Whatever does happen I’m at peace with and I know I can hold my head high."
Angry as Yankees fans may have been with Boone at times this season, the manager had little to do with Tuesday’s defeat.
The Yankees were outhit by only 7-6, but they allowed seven walks and did not draw a walk themselves. Four of those walks were converted into runs, and four of the Boston runs scored on a pair of two-out hits.
Giancarlo Stanton had a tremendous game with a home run to rightfield in the ninth inning and a pair of rockets high off the Green Monster that went for singles, but the rest of the Yankees went 3-for-28 — a home run by Anthony Rizzo, a dribbler by Gio Urshela and a chopper to short that was beaten out by a hustling Aaron Judge.
Cole, 16-8 with a 3.23 ERA this season, wasn’t sharp from the start. He allowed Xander Bogaerts' 427-foot two-run homer to centerfield on a changeup over the heart of the plate with two outs in the first and a 435-foot solo shot to rightfield by Kyle Schwarber on a 1-and-2 fastball that was above the strike zone in the third.
In his final four starts of the season, including Tuesday, Cole allowed 18 runs and 28 hits, including seven home runs, in 19 2/3 innings. He had an 8.24 ERA and a 1.73 WHIP in that span. Cole, who allowed three runs and four hits, entered the night 1-4 with a 5.21 ERA in seven career starts at Fenway Park, including the postseason.
"I’ve been playing this game long enough to know you shouldn’t be surprised by anything anymore," Brett Gardner said of Cole’s brief outing.
Cole was completely outpitched by Nathan Eovaldi, who went 23-11 with a 4.45 ERA as a Yankee from 2015-16. The Yankees had their way with him Sept. 24, when he allowed seven runs in 2 2/3 innings in an 8-3 loss, but this time he allowed one run and four hits in 5 1/3 innings, striking out eight.
With one out in the sixth, Rizzo homered to rightfield to make it 3-1 and Judge reached on an infield single. Boston manager Alex Cora yanked Eovaldi at 71 pitches and brought in righthander Ryan Brasier to face Stanton, who lined a drive high off the Green Monster in left-center, missing a tying homer by only a few feet. "I think that’s a home run in 29 of 30 parks,’’ Judge said.
Centerfielder Kike Hernandez fielded the rebound off the wall and fired on one hop to shortstop Bogaerts, who threw a strike to catcher Kevin Plawecki. Judge dived into the plate headfirst, pulled back his left hand and tried to touch the plate with his right, but Plawecki tagged him in the upper body for the second out. With Stanton on second, Joey Gallo popped out to end the threat.
Judge had no problem with third base coach Phil Nevin's aggressive send. ‘’You’ve got to take chances in the postseason,'' he said. "You’ve got to take opportunities. You can’t play scared, you can’t play afraid, and when you see an opportunity like that, especially a bad ricochet off the wall, you know you’ve got to take chances. That didn’t win or lose this game for us . . . I’m trying to score there and I just didn’t get the job done, didn’t get my hand there on the slide, and that’s it.’’
A similar play worked out for the Red Sox in the bottom of the inning. Bogaerts drew a one-out walk and scored on Alex Verdugo's double into the rightfield corner, running through third base coach Carlos Febles' stop sign and crossing the plate standing up ahead of Gleyber Torres' relay.
With one out in the seventh, Jonathan Loaisiga walked Schwarber and Hernandez. With two outs, Chad Green walked Bogaerts to load the bases and allowed a two-run single by Verdugo.
"This is the worst feeling in the world, and it happens to 29 teams every year — going home early and not achieving your ultimate goal,'' Cole said. "So focusing on all the good that maybe put us in this opportunity or the good that you did in the regular season doesn’t really . . . There’s just really nothing you can do to make it feel any better.
"You can’t be afraid of this feeling. You’ve got to go through it inevitably to get that championship, but there’s nothing that really makes it feel any better.’’
Said Judge, referring to the season as a whole: "It’s kind of black and white for me. It’s either you won or you didn’t win; you didn’t win, that to me is a failure.’’