The Yankees began a stretch of 35 games in 33 days with a doubleheader in Atlanta on Wednesday.
It couldn’t have gone much worse.
They dropped both ends of the twin bill, with Gerrit Cole beaten in the first game, as the Yankees lost 5-1 in seven innings. And then they dropped the second game 2-1, also in seven innings, with Freddie Freeman hitting a two-run shot in the sixth off Chad Green to ruin Masahiro Tanaka’s effort.
The defeats extended the Yankees’ losing streak to five games, their longest since Aug. 1-5, 2018.
And in Aaron Judge’s first game back from a calf injury, the right fielder played in just the second game and was removed in the bottom of the sixth.
The Yankees had been sidelined since falling to the Rays in The Bronx last Thursday, as the postponement of the Subway Series because of two COVID cases with the Mets cost them three games and Tuesday’s scheduled game at Truist Park in Atlanta was rained out.
Their return to the field was ugly from beginning to end, as Cole allowed three homers and the Yankees had little answer for Atlanta right-hander Ian Anderson, who took a no-hitter into the sixth in his MLB debut.
The second loss may have stung more, as Tanaka cruised through five innings and was pulled after just 66 pitches with a one-run lead provided by a sacrifice fly from Tyler Wade in the top of the fifth.
But Aaron Boone went to Green to start the bottom of the sixth. The right-hander retired the first two batters, but then allowed a single to Dansby Swanson and Freeman followed with a two-run shot.
Gary Sanchez delivered a pinch-hit single with two outs in the seventh before Mike Ford grounded out to end it.
An offense that is still without DJ LeMahieu and Giancarlo Stanton provided almost nothing all day.
The 22-year-old Anderson retired the first eight batters he faced until Tyler Wade drew a walk with two outs in the third. Wade swiped second, but was stranded there when Mike Tauchman grounded out to end the inning.
The Yankees didn’t get their first hit in the opener until Luke Voit’s homer to the opposite field with one out in the sixth. It was the fifth straight game Voit’s had homered and cut the Yankees’ deficit to 4-1.
By then, Cole already had given up three home runs.
The first came on Cole’s first batter of the game, as Ronald Acuna, Jr. hit a 473-foot shot into the left-field seats to give Atlanta a 1-0 lead.
Cole walked Acuna with one out in the third and Swanson followed with an opposite-field two-run homer to make it 3-0.
Later in the third, Marcell Ozuna went deep, this one another solo shot that traveled an estimated 469 feet as the Braves extended their lead to 4-0.
“I just would have liked to have pitched better,’’ said Cole, who allowed five runs in five-plus innings. “It just seemed to be a little bit feast or famine. I had good command for a period of time [and] then some bad command in bad spots. … We just didn’t match up and they stayed one step ahead of me too many times.”
It was Cole’s first regular-season loss since May 22 of last year, when he was with the Astros. In that span, Cole was 20-0 with a 1.97 ERA, covering 28 starts.
But on Wednesday, Cole and the Yankees were no match for the Braves.