On their way to winning the World Series in 1996 the Yankees rallied around second baseman Mariano Duncan’s slogan that was printed on T-shirts.
“We play today. We win today. Das it,’’ was Duncan’s message.
Almost a quarter century later, the Yankees’ motto should be “Gerrit Cole pitches today. We win today. Das it.’’
Saturday afternoon that happened even though Cole wasn’t the winning pitcher in an 8-4 victory over the Rays in the first of two seven-inning games at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.
With Yankee pitchers issuing nine walks and hitting a batter, the Rays took the nightcap, 5-3.
Left-handed hitter Mike Ford batted for Giancarlo Stanton in the sixth inning of the second game against lefty Jalen Beeks which was a strong indication there was something wrong with Stanton.
Opener Mike King walked five in 3 ²/₃ innings and Luis Avilan two in one-third of an inning. Avilan also gave up a bloop two-run single to Austin Meadows in the fourth when the Rays snapped a 1-1 tie.
In his major league debut Albert Abreu walked one, hit a batter and gave up a two-run single to Kevan Smith that extended the hosts’ lead to 5-1 in the fifth.
Following the top of the fifth, Aaron Boone was ejected by plate umpire Vic Carapazza. The Yankees’ dugout appeared to be chirping at Rays pitchers for throwing hard up and in to Yankee hitters.
The split left the Yankees with a 10-5 record. They have lost three of four and will attempt to get out of Florida with a split of the four-game series Sunday when the struggling James Paxton (0-1, 13.50 ERA) faces Charlie Morton.
In the first game, one out away from qualifying for what would have been his 20th straight win, Cole was removed by Boone after giving up a two-run homer to Jose Martinez that cut the Yankees’ lead to 5-3. Cole needed a season-high 107 pitches to go 4 ²/₃ innings in which he gave up three runs, six hits and struck out 10. The Yankees are 4-0 in Cole’s four starts.
“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,’’ Cole said. “But there was some kind of improvement across the board so I will try and take that.’’
Boone credited the Rays hitters for making Cole sweat even during the opening four frames when the hosts didn’t score.
“Credit to them, they made him work obviously and really drove his count up,’’ Boone said. “They were able to get a guy on base it seemed like every inning. I thought he was pretty sharp overall for not being able to get through five.’’
An RBI double by Ji-Man Choi in the fifth was followed by Martinez’s two-run homer and suddenly a 5-0 lead was reduced to a two-run cushion and led to Boone calling for Chad Green.
“A couple of mistakes at the end that cost him to get through [five]. I thought the other side at least made it tough on him when I thought he was pretty sharp,’’ said Boone, who used Adam Ottavino for the seventh to seal a win that halted a two-game losing streak, albeit briefly.
After getting beat 1-0 Friday night and not touching home plate in the previous 13 innings the Yankees knocked out gas-throwing right-hander Tyler Glasnow in the third inning on Saturday.
Boone put the left-handed hitting Ford between Aaron Judge and Stanton third in the order and he crushed a two-run homer on a fastball that traveled 437 feet. Gio Urshela added a two-run double that ended Glasnow’s day.
Stanton homered leading off the fifth and Judge’s eighth homer delivered two runs in the sixth.
“Game plan for him you have to be on the heater at all times,’’ Ford said of Glasnow, whose fastball reached 98 mph in the second inning. “Obviously he has an electric fastball and great breaking ball. For me it was stay on the heater the whole game.’’