Given the nature of the New York Yankees’ 2021 campaign, it all seemed a bit too easy — which is not how any of this worked all season.
Riding a seven-game winning streak into Wednesday night, the Yankees had an opportunity to put a death grip on the top American League Wild Card spot against the Toronto Blue Jays, a team New York beat on Tuesday to move three games ahead of them and two games ahead of the second-Wild-Card-spot-holding Boston Red Sox.
Even more promising was that they were giving the ball to their ace, their $324 million golden arm in Gerrit Cole to hold Toronto down and put them four games back of the Yankees with four games left to play.
But Cole was tagged for four runs in the first three innings featuring five extra-base hits and home runs from Bo Bichette and Marcus Semien, putting the Yankees in a hole that they were able to get out of later in the evening, but ultimately could not overcome in a 6-5 loss.
Toronto was back within two games, the Red Sox back within one, the Seattle Mariners were smack dab in between them, and the Yankees’ postseason hopes were not so safe.
“I think we’re running into some really tough teams,” Cole said. “I just was not quite sharp enough today. That’s just the bottom line. I think that I certainly showed the ability to make the pitches that we needed to over the course of the game. I just didn’t make enough of them.”
Cole hasn’t been sharp enough throughout the majority of September.
Following a hamstring injury that cropped up on Sept. 7, Cole has allowed 15 earned runs in his last three starts for a 7.64 ERA — allowing questions of holding up under a heavy workload following last year’s shortened season to creep in.
The Yankees’ ace reiterated that he feels fine and would be ready to go “for the last game” of the regular season, which could potentially be a must-win depending on how they fare against a team that has constantly given them nightmares of late, the Tampa Bay Rays.
That means he could toe the rubber on short rest with the possibility of the Yankees’ postseason hopes riding on his shoulders.
Cole’s ERA against the Rays this season is 5.11.
Should the Yankees clinch their spot in the Wild Card Game on Tuesday, then what? Bring back Cole on two days rest to potentially throw a few innings against a Boston Red Sox team that he has a 4.91 ERA against this season or the very same Blue Jays who teed off on him Wednesday night?