Gerrit Cole rebounded from his worst start of the season in a major way Friday as he led the Yankees to a 6-2 series-opening win at the Tampa Bay Rays.
Four things to know from Friday’s game
1. Aside from Yandy Diaz‘s sixth-inning solo home run, Cole was lights out. In 7.2 innings, he threw 100 pitches (66 strikes), allowed two runs (one earned) on three hits and struck out 11 while walking none. From the second through sixth innings, Cole (11-4, 2.95 ERA, 1.04 WHIP) retired 13 Rays in a row. Throughout a dark year for the Yankees (62-66), Cole has consistently been a bright spot — and he sent a message with his case for the AL Cy Young Award against Tampa Bay (78-52).
2. Run support has been an issue for Cole and the Yankees, but he got more than enough from his teammates this time. DJ LeMahieu‘s solo shots in the fifth and eighth innings played a key role. He drew first blood and broke Zach Elfin‘s near-shutout through five innings by crushing a 2-1 breaking ball to left-center field and putting the Yankees up 1-0.
LeMahieu’s 11th long ball of the year also came with two outs, in the eighth, when he turned on Trevor Kelley‘s 2-1 slider and sent another homer into the left-center seats to pad the Yankees’ 6-1 lead.
3. Top prospect Everson Pereira — the No. 3 player in the Yankees’ organization, whom New York called up earlier this week — came through with a sixth-inning RBI single that gave Cole some breathing room. With two outs, Pereira made sure that the Yankees did not strand the leadoff efforts of Gleyber Torres and Giancarlo Stanton — the No. 3 and 4 batters in Friday’s lineup stood at first and second after singling and walking, respectively.
Pereira earned the second hit — both have been RBI singles — of his four-game career when he lined an 0-1 fastball to right-center field and doubled the Yankees’ lead, 2-0.
4. Torres and Stanton came back around to fuel a pivotal seventh inning in which the Yankees scratched three more runs across. With two on and one out, Torres ripped a 1-2 fastball off Kelley down the left-field line for a ground-rule double (20) that scored LeMahieu and put the Yankees ahead 3-1 while Aaron Judge went from first to third base.
One batter later, Stanton roped Kelley’s 1-2 sinker off the left-center wall, scoring Judge and Torres while pushing the Yankees lead to a commanding 5-1 advantage. The Rays scored a run with two outs in the eighth inning when Brandon Lowe singled to left field off Jonathan Loaisiga, who replaced Cole, but the Yankees limited the damage and closed out the four-run win.
The Yankees and Rays continue their three-game series Saturday at 4:10 p.m.
RHPs Clarke Schmidt (8-7, 4.68 ERA) and Tyler Glasnow (6-4, 3.35 ERA) are set to start.