BOSTON ― It was his biggest Yankee moment yet and Gerrit Cole came up small. The ace couldn’t get an out in the third inning Tuesday night and the Yankees’ season seemed to follow him as the right-hander walked off the field for the last time of the year to the jeers of Red Sox fans at Fenway Park.
Cole gave up two home runs in two innings as the Red Sox jumped on the Yankees for a 6-2 win in the one-game American League Wild Card Game to end the Bombers’ season.
The Red Sox advance to face the Rays in the AL Division Series beginning Thursday night. The Yankees are left to wonder what went wrong with their ace and their season.
It was the shortest outing of Cole’s career. He gave up a two-run shot to Xander Bogaerts in the first and a solo shot to Kyle Schwarber in the third. They were the sixth and seventh home runs Cole gave up to the Red Sox in 18 innings pitched at Fenway this season.
That was absolutely not what the Yankees were expecting when they signed Cole to a record-setting (at the time) $324 million, nine-year contract in December 2019. Cole was to be the piece that put the Yankees over the top.
“We need to win some world championships and I believe we’re going to do that sooner rather than later,” Yankees managing partner Hal Steinbrenner said the day the Yankees introduced Cole at the Stadium. When asked to clarify if he meant a championship, Steinbrenner emphatically said “plural.”
Well, there are seven years left on Cole’s contract, but this year wasted the rest of the core of this Yankees’ team. Most importantly it burned a tremendous season by Aaron Judge, who is only under team control for one more season.
It took just seven pitches before Cole found himself in trouble. Rafael Devers battled him to a full count and drew the walk. With the Red Sox third baseman on first, Cole missed on a changeup that was supposed to be down to Bogaerts and the Red Sox shortstop jumped it for a 427-foot, two-run homer to center field. Schwarber, who had burned Cole for a homer in the 2015 Wild Card game, crushed a chest-high 98-mile an hour fastball to right field. After a single by Enrique Hernandez, Aaron Boone started the slow walk to the mound and Cole said “I’m out,” and handed his manager the ball.
Cole had walked two, struck out two and allowed three runs on four hits.
The Yankees bats couldn’t help him or themselves.
Nathan Eovaldi, who the Yankees crushed the last time they met, held them down for five innings. Anthony Rizzo homered with one out in the top of the sixth, and following a Judge single, Red Sox manager Alex Cora was quick to start piecing together his pitching.
The Yankees blew their first chance against the Red Sox shaky bullpen when third base coach Phil Nevin sent Judge from first on Giancarlo Stanton’s hard-hit single off the center field wall. The Yankees right-fielder was easily tagged out by former Met Kevin Plawecki, killing a potential rally.
Alex Verdugo hit an RBI-double off Luis Severino in the sixth and a two-run single off Jonathan Loaisiga in the seventh .
The Yankees’ season left so many questions that have to be addressed this winter.
That begins with whether they will bring back manager Aaron Boone. In his four years as the Yankees skipper, Boone has a 328-218 record (a .661 winning percentage) and taken the Bombers to the playoffs all four years.
But they’ve never gotten further than the American League Championship Series in 2019 and in the first full year of Cole’s $324 million contract, the Yankees struggled and aren’t going to be reaping any of that back with playoff gate now.
The Yankees have not won a World Series since 2009. In fact they haven’t even gotten there since they opened the new Yankee Stadium that season. That ultimately falls at the feet of general manager Brian Cashman, who not only chose Boone, but also oversaw the building of their analytics department that hasn’t been able to keep up and the construction of a roster that has not performed up to its payroll.
The Yankees managed 92 wins and only clinched a Wild Card spot on the final day of the season. In the tough American League East, they managed a winning record against just the Baltimore Orioles.
Cole was supposed to be the final piece in rebuilding a dynasty in the Bronx. Instead, the Bombers go into this winter wondering how they can reconfigure to compete in the division, let alone for another World Series.