From what could've been the most cathartic win of the season, to the worst loss of the season. We present you: the 2023 New York Yankees (although we have firmly been re-telling a variation of this story since 2020).
In a game they led 6-0 with ace Gerrit Cole on the mound, the Yankees lost 8-7 in extras. They were perfectly set up to take the three-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays and start anew on Monday at home against the Oakland Athletics, which was much needed given how the last couple weeks have gone.
Instead, Cole melted down in his eighth start of the season and the most important one to date. After cruising through the first four innings, the right-hander ended up allowing six runs (five earned) on eight hits and two walks in just five innings of work.
The offense performed admirably, and even punched back once to tie the game at 7-7 after the pitching staff gave up seven straight runs, but couldn't come through in extras. An Anthony Volpe lineout moved Aaron Hicks (the ghost runner) from second to third, but a Gleyber Torres fielder's choice (or a Hicks/coaching staff baserunning gaffe) and an Anthony Rizzo strikeout put the ball right back in the Rays' court.
And then they used that opportunity to punk the Yankees in the bottom half of the 10th after Aaron Boone went to Albert Abreu.
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Yankees suffer worst loss of season to Rays after blown 6-0 lead
Cole was as close as you can get to bulletproof before this outing. He could barely be touched. He was immune to criticism. Of course a rubber match against the best team in baseball and a six-run lead would be the checkpoint where fans would be forced to put everything else into question.
It happened in the blink of an eye, too. Double, double, walk, home run, walk, RBI groundout. Cole was removed before recording an out in the sixth after the Rays had ran up his pitch count the inning prior. Cole had allowed just three baserunners in the first four innings.
His final full inning? Seven. And six crossed the plate.
Throw in another questionable defensive day from the pitching position, Gleyber Torres and Oswaldo Cabrera, and this is the result you get ... because multiple elements of a single game can rarely go unblemished for the Bombers this year. The vibes are off. No decision is ever right. Even when you sat there wondering if Cole would be able to survive the sixth when Christian Bethancourt came to the plate, you thought for a split second it might be a good idea to take him out.
Boone was seemingly itching to do so based on his facial expression in the dugout, but do you really remove Cole for Jimmy Cordero and lose that way?
And because Cole's early hook forced Boone to use Cordero, Clay Holmes, Wandy Peralta and Michael King, the mananger had to call on Albert Abreu in the 10th. What did you think was going to happen if they didn't score in the top half?
Need your ace to perform? He bombs and the offense does just enough to lose. Need a single hit with runners in scoring position? The lineup goes 1-for-15 in those scenarios. Need Boone to finally act with conviction and make a questionable decision that might actually work? He leaves Cole in and we watch him get pummeled by the No. 8 hitter. Aaron Hicks finally does something good and records an RBI double? He gets caught in a rundown in extras to ruin the threat. Oswaldo Cabrera finally records a two-hit game? He can't scoop a one-hop throw from Gleyber Torres, which costs the Yankees a run.
How much longer will we be stuck on loop?