Add fumigator to Gerrit Cole’s job description.
After Michael King and Jonathan Loaisiga stunk up Sahlen Field on Monday night in Buffalo on the way to an ugly 11-5 loss to the Blue Jays, the Yankees will turn to their staff ace to clear the stench on Tuesday evening.
The Yankees’ second straight loss after 10 consecutive victories colors Tuesday night’s game as a must-win when it comes to the Yankees’ chances of getting the fourth seed in the upcoming AL playoffs. The team with the best record among the three second-place teams would play all games in the best-of-three first round at home.
Playing three straight postseason games at Yankee Stadium is big for the Yankees who are 21-7 in The Bronx and 10-16 outside of it.
With Cole on the mound Tuesday night the Yankees will start the game 1 ½ lengths back of the Twins for the fourth seed with six games remaining. And the magic number for the Rays to clinch the AL East title will be one.
A night after a quiet celebration to mark clinching a postseason spot on Sunday, the Yankees watched King and Loaisiga give up nine runs in less than four innings and put their mates in a ditch far too deep to dig out of.
“Today was rough, but we are good. We are where we need to be,’’ Giancarlo Stanton said. “We have to try and solidify these last few games to get home field. We know that but we are right where we need to be. We understand how important the last games of the season are.’’
King struck out four of the first seven batters he faced but didn’t make it out of the third. In 2 ²/₃ innings the right-hander allowed five runs and five hits. Loaisiga, who will be counted on for a bigger postseason role than King, was tagged for four runs (three earned) and five hits in an inning. Loaisiga didn’t ask for his rosin bag until the bases were loaded in the fourth. Either he didn’t ask for it earlier or he had a lapse of concentration which, under the circumstances the Yankees are in, isn’t acceptable.
Aaron Hicks and Aaron Judge lost Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s second-inning fly ball to right-center in the early evening sky and stadium lights not up to big-league standards. Gary Sanchez was called for catcher’s inference which helped fuel a four-run fourth that put the game away.
Mike Tauchman’s three-run double in the ninth made the final score look a lot better than it otherwise would have been. Gio Urshela drove in the other two Yankees runs.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us and we are still focused on bringing it back home,’’ Judge said.
That will take not only improved focus Tuesday when Cole looks to clean up Monday night’s mess, but a lot better production in several areas. The Yankees went 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position Monday.
As for dropping two straight following a season-changing 10-game winning streak, Judge said the sails on the Yankees ship haven’t been deflated.
“No, not at all. You are going to have your good games and bad games. Bu the guys are still competing and that is all you can ask for,’’ said Judge, who singled in the first and flied to deep right in the ninth. “Nothing is out of the sail. We are still talking in the dugout. We are still having each other’s back. Our sails are still flying.’’
To have any chance of the Yankees overtaking the Twins and grabbing home-field advantage Cole needs to do Tuesday night what staff aces are expected and paid to do: win.