Gerrit Cole #45 of the Yankees reacts after the fourth inning...

Gerrit Cole #45 of the Yankees reacts after the fourth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The night finished far better than it started for Gerrit Cole.

For the Yankees as a team, that was another matter.

On a night Cole made his long-awaited return to the rotation, the Yankees rallied late against the Orioles Wednesday night, but a slipshod 10th inning cost them in a 7-6 loss in front of a sellout crowd of 47,155 at the Stadium.

“It was a heck of a game against a heck of a team,” Aaron Boone said.

Giancarlo Stanton hit a three-run homer in the seventh inning — his 18th of the season — and added an RBI single in the bottom of the ninth against erratic Orioles closer Craig Kimbrel, capping a comeback from a 5-1 deficit.

But Cedric Mullins’ RBI single in the 10th against Clay Holmes made it 6-5 and he would come in later in the inning when he stole third and scored on Jose Trevino’s wild throw into leftfield. As one NL scout said earlier in the week, “the word has gotten out” on the catcher’s throwing issues (the Red Sox stole nine bases against Trevino Sunday night and Baltimore added four Wednesday).

“I know I’m better than what I’ve been the last three outings or so,” said Holmes, who has allowed a combined five earned runs in his last three appearances, raising his ERA to from 1.23 to 2.53.

DJ LeMahieu singled to start the bottom of the 10th, putting runners at the corners and bringing the winning run to the plate in first base prospect Ben Rice, summoned to the majors on Tuesday. Rice’s sacrifice fly to right brought in bonus runner Gleyber Torres but Oswaldo Cabrera, who pinch ran for LeMahieu, was thrown out trying to steal. Trevino walked but Jahmai Jones struck out looking.

Still, the night overwhelmingly was about Cole and his return after starting the season on the injured list with right elbow inflammation. The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner was solid overall and got better as the game went on after allowing a first-inning run.

“It was kind of a special game for me a little bit,” said Cole, who allowed two runs, three hits and one walk in the outing. “It’s just been a long few months and a lot of emotions. I wasn’t too sure how I was going to feel out there but locating the ball always quells the nerves a little bit.”

His fastball sitting 94-96 mph and peaking at 97, Cole struck out five, all of them coming from the third inning on.

“Not bad,” one rival AL scout said. “After the first inning most of his stuff got better. Just needs to get his legs under him.”

Cole, on a strict pitch count of 60-65 as the Yankees brought him to the majors to continue his buildup, threw 62 pitches, 40 strikes. His line was made slightly worse when, after Cedric Mullins singled on his 62nd pitch, a 95-mph fastball leading off the fifth, Ron Marinaccio allowed a two-run homer to Ramon Urias that gave the Orioles a 3-1 lead (the Orioles added a third run later in the inning to make it 4-1 and scored one more in the seventh against Victor Gonzalez to make it 5-1).

“I think the location was good and it felt like the pitches were crisp. I think I got a swing and miss on every offering,” Cole said. “The consistency probably has to progress as well as the pitch count.”

Cole’s first pitch to leadoff man Gunnar Henderson was a 94-mph fastball that came in a bit outside and his second pitch, also a 94-mph fastball, also was a ball, putting him in a 2-and-0 hole.

Henderson then smoked a cutter that one-hopped off Torres’ glove at second, the ball skittering into right for a double. Ryan O’Hearn’s RBI double later in the inning made it 1-0 but Cole responded with a 1-2-3, seven-pitch second and was in control from there before expectedly fatiguing.

“I think everyone [was watching] his recovering and keeping on eye on his timeline,” Anthony Volpe said of the impact of Cole’s return. “I think having the best pitcher in baseball [coming back] influences the whole week, how we approach the whole week. Leaving the ballpark [Tuesday night], it’s just a good feeling knowing how good he is and that he’s going to be starting for us the next day.”

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