Even though doubleheader games in 2020 are only seven innings, a starting pitcher still needs to go five innings to qualify for a win.
But when you’re Gerrit Cole and you signed a $324 million free-agent contract, do you really need a win?
Yankees manager Aaron Boone did his best to let Cole qualify for one in the fifth inning of Game 1 of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Rays at Tropicana Field. With a five-run lead entering the inning, Boone let Cole throw 107 pitches in his fourth start, but
pitch No. 107 was crushed for a two-out, two-run homer by Jose Martinez. Cole walked off the mound having gotten only 14 of the 15 outs he needed to qualify.
Still, the Yankees beat the Rays, 8-4, behind home runs by Mike Ford, Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge and three RBIs by Gio Urshela.
The Yankees lost the nightcap, 5-3, in a game in which Boone and hitting coach Marcus Thames were ejected by plate umpire Vic Carapazza in the fifth inning, apparently for chirping about balls and strikes. Thames was ejected first and Boone followed during a definitely not socially distanced (but masked) argument.
A loss of a different kind also may have taken place in Game 2. Stanton, who homered in Game 1, was removed for a pinch hitter in the sixth inning of the nightcap. The Yankees said the oft-injured Stanton was taken out because of a tight left hamstring.
Michael King started Game 2 and walked five in 3 2⁄3 innings. That wildness started an unfortunate trend for the Yankees, who gave up eight walks (all with two outs) and hit a batter in the first five innings, which helped the Rays take a 5-1 lead.
The Yankees made it 5-3 with three consecutive two-out hits in the seventh, and DJ LeMahieu’s two-run single brought major-league home run leader Judge to the plate as the potential tying run. His bid for his ninth home run fell short as Rays centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier ran it down on the warning track in left-center.
“I just got underneath it a little bit,” Judge said. “I knew right when I hit it that it wasn’t going to make it even though it went to the track. Just underneath it a little bit.”
Cole entered Game 1 with a 19-0 record, a 1.86 ERA, a 0.81 WHIP and a 13.25 K/9 ratio in his previous 25 regular-season starts, but his 4 2⁄3 innings weren’t enough to allow him to go to 4-0 this season.
Chad Green, who gave up a run in 1 1⁄3 innings, was awarded the win.
Cole called his outing “good and bad. I thought the fastball location was improved. Obviously, the pitch count got up there and wasn’t able to finish the outing the way we wanted to. But there was some good improvement across the board, so I’ll just try to take that.”
The Yankees led 5-0 going into the bottom of the fifth in Game 1. Ford hit a two-run homer off Tyler Glasnow in the third and the Yankees made it 4-0 later in the inning on a two-run double by Urshela that knocked out Glasnow.
Stanton blasted his third homer of the year in the fifth to make it 5-0.
Cole was throwing a shutout, but he didn’t have any 1-2-3 innings against the pesky Rays. In the fourth, Yoshi Tsutsugo had a 12-pitch plate appearance that ended with a walk.
Eventually, the long counts caught up with Cole.
“I just never got any quick outs,” he said. “I still lament falling behind a couple of those guys, especially to start the inning. Sometimes, we made that up. [But] even with pitches where we executed two or three times in a row to start the at-bat, just never got the popout or the groundout or the fly ball and just ended up going 2-2 and finishing with a strikeout, I felt like, or getting late in the count and then we got the contact in the field. It just ran the count up.”
In the fifth, Cole struck out Kiermaier, Mike Zunino doubled and Cole caught Yandy Diaz looking for his 10th strikeout (Cole’s first four outs were via strikeout).
One out away.
But Ji-Man Choi laced an RBI double inside the first-base bag to make it 5-1. Boone sent out Blake to give Cole a breather before he faced Martinez, who one way or another was going to be Cole’s last batter.
Cole fell behind 2-and-0 before Martinez launched a two-run homer to make it 5-3.
“I thought he was really good,” Boone said. “Credit to them. They made him work, obviously, and really drove his count up. They were able to get a guy on base it seemed like every inning and Tsutsugo had that long at-bat . . . But I thought he was pretty sharp overall for not being able to get through five.”
Judge gave the Yankees a 7-3 lead when he hit a two-run homer off former Met Sean Gilmartin in the sixth.