It’s late early and getting darker by the day.
With the AL East-leading Rays in The Bronx for a three-game visit, it was fitting the Yankees had ace Gerrit Cole on the mound for the opener Monday night.
Who better to turn to than Cole? Nobody in pinstripes, that’s for sure.
Yet by the time the Rays had hit twice, they had three runs on homers by Ji-Man Choi and Kevin Kiermaier off Cole, which paved the way for Tyler Glasnow and the Rays to hang a 5-3 loss on the Yankees at Yankee Stadium.
Cole (4-2) allowed four runs in five innings and established season-highs in walks (four) and hits (eight) on the way to a second straight loss after winning 20 in a row.
The 25-11 Rays’ seventh win in eight games against the Yankees this year upped their lead over Aaron Boone’s second-place club to 4 ½ lengths. It is the furthest out of first place the Yankees have been this season. Since the Blue Jays lost to the Orioles the Yankees, who were coming off a three-game win streak, remained one game ahead of third-place Toronto. Including the three straight wins over the Mets this past weekend the 24-12 Yankees have lost eight of 11.
With 27 games remaining — two with the Rays — the Yankees could quickly find themselves playing for second place in the AL East, which would automatically qualify them for the 16-team postseason.
Glasnow didn’t allow a hit until DJ LeMahieu’s one-out infield single to deep short in the sixth and the Rays leading 5-0. Mike Ford singled to right with two out and moved to second on Hunter Renfroe’s bobble. But Clint Frazier whiffed to squash the scoring chance.
In six shutout innings, Glasnow allowed two hits, a walk and struck out nine. He is 2-1.
Right-hander Edgar Garcia took over for Glasnow to start the seventh and was greeted by Gio Urshela’s leadoff opposite-field homer to right that cut the deficit to 5-1. He gave up a two-run homer to Luke Voit in the eighth that made it 5-3 and brought Peter Fairbanks out of the bullpen.
Ford lined out in front of Frazier’s single to right. Frazier swiped second while Urshela whiffed and Mike Tauchman ended the rally with a pop to short left field.
Sunday’s nightcap hero Gary Sanchez opened the ninth against Diego Castillo — with the annoying fake crowd noise juiced a few notches — with a slow roller to the right side. Aaron Hicks hit for Jordy Mercer and beat the shift with a ground single to left. Representing the potential tying run Brett Gardner extended his disappointing season by striking out on three pitches. Castillo finished the Yankees off by getting LeMahieu on a chopper to the left of the mound.