The Yankees would have found a way, during the first half of the season, to win the game they played Friday night.
It’s not the first part of the season anymore.
Closer Clay Holmes struggled for a second straight appearance, coming into the eighth inning and giving up a fielding hit, a walk and a two-run brace to Paul DeJong, as the Yankees lost their third straight, 4- 3 to the Cardinals at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.
With a reconfigured bullpen, manager Aaron Boone went to Holmes in the bottom of the eighth with a 3-2 lead. Boone later said that Aroldis Chapman would have pitched in the ninth had the Yankees still been ahead.
“It’s not easy for us right now,” Boone said of his team, which is 70-36 but only 12-16 in the last 28 games.
Holmes was not the only culprit. The Yankees scored just three runs and didn’t score at all after the fifth, despite beating St. Louis, 10-5.
“It’s pretty frustrating,” said Matt Carpenter, who had two hits and a near homer but retired to end the game with the tying run first. “It really feels like a game that we kind of had control over all the time. They kept him close to us and put us aside.
The eighth inning started innocently, as Holmes allowed a hit to Nolan Arenado with one out. He then walked Tyler O’Neill with two outs before DeJong – now 5-for-7 against Holmes – hit a two-run brace.
“Something that has made me successful is limiting contact with right-handers,” Holmes said. “Giving up a one-two down the line, especially with runners, can’t happen.”
The fact that Chapman has been pitching better lately, along with the addition of Scott Effross (who was acquired from the Cubs on Monday and pitched well in 1 ¹/₃ innings on Friday) and Lou Trivino at the deadline, is a bullpen very different relievers on the stretch.
“Hopefully we’ll all ride like we can and [Chapman] is gaining momentum,” Boone said. “We have a lot of options there.”
This would allow Holmes to attack right-handers in seventh, eighth or ninth, but he has been less effective lately.
Nestor Cortes pitched well, but wasn’t as sharp as usual, tying a season high with four walks in just 5 ¹/₃ innings.
The Yankees took the lead early in the first after DJ LeMahieu started with a walk. Aaron Judge got airborne, but LeMahieu moved up to third on a Carpenter single.
With two outs, Josh Donaldson drilled an RBI double to right center, scoring LeMahieu and sending Carpenter to third.
The Cardinals tied the game late in the second thanks to a pair of walks from Cortes and a two-out single from Yadier Molina.
Donaldson came on with his second RBI of the night in the third, picking in a run after Judge and Carpenter started with singles against Dakota Hudson.
Torres delivered in the fifth. After Judge picked and stole second, he moved to third on a Carpenter pitch after Hudson was substituted for Andre Pallante. Torres then hit a field hit that drove Judge to make it 3-1.
Cortes, who had allowed just three runs in 18 innings in his previous three starts, settled into a groove after Molina’s RBI single, striking out nine in a row to a walk in the fifth.
But Cortes also matched a season high with four walks, including one to Paul Goldschmidt who ended Cortes’ night with an out in the bottom of the sixth.
A wild throw from Albert Abreu, who took over from Cortes, sent Goldschmidt into second.
A single from Arenado put the runners in the corners before Abreu retired Nolan Gorman, pinch blow for Albert Pujols, for the second out.
But Abreu faltered and allowed a hit from O’Neill to make it 3-2, as Cortes ended up being charged with two runs.
Effross came in and pulled DeJong out to hold the one-point lead.
Pallante, meanwhile, took over for Hudson and pitched four scoreless innings.
Ryan Hesley finished the game for the Cardinals. After walking LeMahieu with one out in the ninth, Tim Locastro ran, but Judge and Carpenter couldn’t pass.