The magic of baseball is that it gets your heart pumping any night, even if your favorite team is in the middle of one of the best years you’ve ever seen. The Yankees already won their 50th game of 2022 on Monday night. It’s incredibly rare to see a 50-win team when Father’s Day was only yesterday, and this team was overwhelming enough to make most W’s a breeze, all things considered.
However, Monday night offered none of the casual dominance and all the nail biting and hyperventilating. Most of the drama came from Gerrit Cole, who hit a no-hitter deep for the second time this month while the Yankees could only scrape together a few runs against Shane McClanahan and the Rays’ bullpen. Then Cole lost his bid for a leadoff single in the eighth from Isaac Paredes, and ace-release Clay Holmes amazingly gave up his first run since opening day as Tampa Bay tied 2-2.
Aaron Hicks needed the drama in the ninth inning to give the Yankees the lead they wouldn’t give up. And even with an insurance run, Wandy Peralta made it interesting after taking over for Holmes as the Rays twice sent the winning run to the plate. The left-hander pushed down to give Hicks a strikeout and a flyball, securing the 4-2 win and letting thousands of Yankees fans breathe a sigh of relief.
Cole flirted with perfection against the Tigers on June 3 and saw his bid broken in the seventh with two outs. He wasn’t perfect this time, but his no-hit attempt lasted even longer. Cole’s command was electrifying, as he was particularly good at locating his fastball:
Cole could apparently place his pitches wherever he wanted tonight with the only exception being the fifth inning. Walks to Brett Phillips and Josh Lowe earned a runner-scoring position with two outs, and Cole blew Rene Pinto away with a K to end the frame.
Aside from that brief loss of control, Cole was spinning absolute dirt, batting 12–7 innings without a hit. Though he’s only been with the Yankees for 56 starts now (which is roughly the equivalent of just under two full seasons), he is fifth ever in double-digit strikeout games in franchise history at 16. His next will draw him level with Al Downing in fourth place, just a few shy of CC Sabathia.
Tasked with facing McClanahan for the second time in a week, the Yankees tried to repeat the strategy of making their meager hits count early on. On June 15, Aaron Judge cracked a homer in the first inning against him to give the Yankees an early 1-0 win. This time, Anthony Rizzo handled the opening honors by smashing a 2-2 pitch 410 feet to right field for his 19th long ball of the season:
The 2021 season wasn’t even bad for Rizzo, but it still took him until September 9 to hit the front door of 20 home runs. In that remarkable year, he came in at No. 19 on June 20. Most fans had modest expectations for the three-time All-Star, who hasn’t played at this level in a number of years, but he surpassed them.
McClanahan recovered quickly and retired the next 11 Yankees in turn. They threatened again in the fifth when they got back-to-back singles from Josh Donaldson and Hicks, and the right-hander made trouble for himself by leading Jose Trevino to load the bases. But the No. 9 hitter was next, and although Marwin Gonzalez homed yesterday, McClanahan wasted no time with him as he got a double play off the first pitch on a sharp grounder on the third to end the inning.
By the seventh, McClanahan was out for the Rays, but the Yankees were close to missing another golden opportunity. Gleyber Torres greeted assist Ryan Thompson with a double to the right and he stole third without a throw. Donaldson and Hicks had contributed to that scoring chance in game five, but this time they were the goats as they struck in back-to-back at-bats to keep Torres in third place.
Then the Yankees challenged Trevino to dial in some of the magic that made his surprising All-Star-caliber first half so special:
Did Ji-Man Choi have to catch a shot from Vidal Bruján to make that run? Of course, but for Lindsey Adler above and everyone else who’s followed the Yankees in 2022, it’s no shock at all to see that Trevino is the one making it possible with his hustle. The mistake made it 2-0, Yankees.
While this was all going on, Cole had regained control of his potential bid with no hits. After that long fifth he was down to 86 pitches, but in the sixth and seventh he made quick work of the Rays to give himself a chance to go all the way. Paredes, Tampa’s second baseman, didn’t cooperate, however, as he started the eighth by setting up Cole’s 105th pitch up middle for a clean single. The no-no attempt was over, and after a scary 415-foot soar by Josh Lowe to the middle, Cole was gone too. But what a hassle:
Seemingly wanting to stay away from Michael King for a second straight day after fielding him for 35 pitches on Saturday, Aaron Boone challenged the dependable Holmes to a five-out save. The Closer had gone at least five outs in three previous games in 2022, so it wasn’t a question that discouraged most Yankees fans. Of course, he hadn’t allowed a run to score since opening day (31.1 consecutive innings, tied for the third-longest streak in franchise history), but he hadn’t allowed even an inherited runner since April 26, to score a goal.
Unfortunately, the Rays are not a team easily intimidated and for the first time of the year Holmes gambled away the lead. The real damage came with a missile double from pinch-hitter Francisco Mejía on the right field line, just past Rizzo’s dive. Holmes got faint contact from the next two hitters, but sometimes that’s all it takes. Yandy Díaz’s soft grounder against Holmes’ first baseman scored a run, and Manuel Margot flicked a 64.1-mile dribble into third to make it 2-2. The double went to Holmes, but what followed were the breaks that are ultimately difficult to avoid in a long run of scoreless innings.
Thankfully, these Yankees have shown a propensity to shrug off infrequent missteps, and they did so immediately at the top of ninth place against a pretty good Rays replacement in Jason Adam. The right-hander came into play on Monday with a 0.68 ERA and a 0.638 WHIP. He rarely allows baserunners, but the Yankees also managed to hit him in two of their previous three games with Adam on the mound in 2022. Donaldson played to the left, and Hicks hit the ballgame’s winning shot with an RBI triple to the right:
Margot suffered an ugly looking knee injury during the game and was down, which helped Hicks get the third and Donaldson score. But Hicks deserves full credit for blowing that ball 356 feet and off the wall. He scored the key goal for the second time in three games.
After Trevino Hicks stalled with a much-appreciated insurance run on a sacrificial fly, Wandy Peralta stepped in to finish it off. The left-hander was looking to recover after an unusually poor game in the series final against Toronto and still made fans sweat – although it wasn’t entirely his fault. He gave Bruján a leadoff walk, and after getting Harold Ramírez to fly to Joey Gallo with a basket catch, he got a double-play ball from Paredes. However, third baseman DJ LeMahieu timed his first error of the season badly and threw it away.
Peralta now had to face Lowe first as a potential winning run with the tie. He bounced back from a 2-0 deficit to the rookie to beat him colour on the outside corner, and while Mejía could defeat Holmes, he couldn’t do the same to Peralta. A pop-up to Hicks in left field ended the chaotic ball game.
Exhale and enjoy the 4-2 win, everyone. The Yankees and Rays will reunite at the same time tomorrow night at Tropicana Field, with Nestor Cortes seemingly poised to face a bullpen game plan from Ray’s skipper Kevin Cash. The first pitch is at 7:10 p.m. ET.