Gerrit Cole was still looking for the perfect tone. The Yankees were still looking for their aces. And Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was looking for a Band-Aid.
Cole, who struggled at the start of his season, didn’t look impressive Wednesday night either. He conceded two home runs and a double to Guerrero Jr., as the Yankees lost 6–4 to the Blue Jays at the stadium.
Gleber Torres, Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo worked on the house and DJ Lemahieu drove in a run.
Rizzo scored his third of the season against Jose Berios in the fifth inning, and the judge hit his first in 2022 shortly thereafter. Josh Donaldson doubled and scored in right field on LeMahieu’s humpback line drive. Torres hit his first of the season in the bottom of the eighth.
But it wasn’t enough to defeat Guerrero Jr. and the Blue Jays. Guerrero had three homers in the night, when he needed to bandage his bloodied finger after Aaron Hicks stepped on first base. His final blow came in Jonathan Loisiga’s eighth inning and broke a tied game.
The Yankees signed Cole to a nine-year, $324 million deal as one of the most influential pitchers of his generation. Before MLB cracked down on illegal sticky substances pitchers were exploiting for better spin rates and command.
Cole regained some of his swagger late last summer, but was battling a hamstring injury at the end of the year. He lost it all when he was marked in the AL Wild Card Game.
Cole needs to show the Yankees and his fans that he is the ace he signed to a record-setting contract for a pitcher in December 2019. And the big moments, like playoff games.
On Wednesday night, Cole was still struggling to find his way back after an owners’ lockdown—shortened spring training and an inconsistent 2021. He went into Wednesday night’s game knowing it was important to establish a tone.
“We’re still settling down, but that’s what we’re trying to do here and set the standard for how we want to play and how we want to go about our business,” Cole said on Tuesday. “It’s not always going to align with the most desirable results, especially early, it’s not like you have to do it quickly. But the point is, you want to set a level of execution that you want to maintain and from here on out.” want to be able to work.”
There is scope for improvement.
On Wednesday night, Cole worked in 5.2 innings, making three earned runs on four hits. He went for one and hit a six. Cole had 17 swing-and-misses, including a four-for on his four-seam fastball, his cutter and slider.
Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. hammered a hanging slider off Cole in his first innings of the night. In third, along with Bo Bischet, Guerrero turned 98 mph fastball up and in and sent a laser to left-center field for his third homer of the season and the second half of the night. In the sixth, Guerrero went down and got a 98 mph fastball on the knees and pitched it into a right-field corner for a double.
The bright side of the Yankees was that Cole kept every Blue Jay named after his Hall of Fame father on just one hit.
“Every time Gerrit takes the mound it’s a big start,” manager Aaron Boone said ahead of Wednesday’s game. “He’s one of the best pitchers in the game and obviously someone we rely on a lot. But I’m really excited about where Gerritt is right now. In both his physical and mental preparation, I think he’s a good Just team-wise and comfort-wise.
“And I think he’s ready to go out and have a great year and hope.”
But Cole is not on top of his game yet.