BOSTON — Gerrit Cole stood at the back of the Fenway Park mound, exasperation sagging his shoulders. Rafael Devers had just clubbed his second home run of the game, continuing to own the upper hand in their personal history, and the Yankees’ ace extended his arms as if to say: “What the heck?”
Fortunately for Cole, his teammates had already provided all the necessary answers for this evening. Josh Donaldson launched a grand slam, the Yanks’ third in the last two nights, and Aaron Hicks homered for the second time in as many games as the Bombers held on for a 6-5 victory over the Red Sox on Thursday.
“It was a great, great atmosphere,” Donaldson said. “This is what baseball is about right here; two really good teams going against each other, playing hard. I’m glad for us that we were able to win today.”
So while Devers’ blasts off Cole sparked a comeback and thrilled the home crowd, even that five-RBI performance would not prevent the Yankees from becoming the first Major League team to reach 60 victories this season. Thanks to Cole and the bullpen, Jose Trevino’s fluke RBI double held up as the difference in New York’s first visit to Fenway Park since last year’s AL Wild Card Game.
“You kind of feel a little cooler weather — it felt like a warm September or October night,” said Yankees manager Aaron Boone. “We haven’t been back here in a while, and to come in here with [the Red Sox] playing better, it’s always fun.”
Two walks and a hit set the stage in the third inning for Donaldson, who barreled a 95.1 mph sinker from rookie right-hander Josh Winckowski for the sixth grand slam of his career, a blast that cleared the center-field wall. Hicks followed by slugging Winckowski’s next pitch into the visitors’ bullpen in right field, depositing five quick runs into Cole’s back pocket.
“It was a big situation for us, to give us a little bit of a cushion,” Donaldson said.
Had Boston’s lineup not contained Devers, Cole and the Yanks might have breezed to a laugher; perhaps not to the level of their 16-0 rout of the Pirates on Wednesday, which featured grand slams from Aaron Judge and Hicks, but a comfortable spot nevertheless.
(The last Major League team to tally three grand slams over a two-game span, by the way, was the 2011 Yankees – Robinson Canó, Russell Martin and Curtis Granderson all hit one in a 22-9 romp over the Athletics that season.)
Instead, Devers continued his push for the American League All-Star team by tattooing a third-inning Cole slider for a two-run blast, then launching a fifth-inning changeup for a three-run shot. The latter homer immediately followed a mound visit in which pitching coach Matt Blake told Cole that “a homer doesn’t beat us right here,” which ultimately proved true.
Cole has surrendered six home runs in 23 career at-bats against Devers, his most against any hitter. Three players have connected for four homers off Cole — coincidentally, all have worn Yankees pinstripes, including two who currently do: Matt Carpenter, Joey Gallo and Ji-Man Choi.
“I’m open for suggestions; you guys are all watching the game too,” Cole said. “He has the ability to ride a ball out at the bottom of the zone, has the ability to catch up to my fastball. He’s proven that. … It’s pretty wild. There just hasn’t been a mishit. Roll over one time. Line out one time. You’re supposed to fail seven out of 10 times in this gig. I don’t know what the deal is.”
If Devers has something on Cole, he wasn’t about to reveal it, saying: “I just see him as a normal pitcher. I’m just trying to look for my pitch and try to do damage in the zone.”
While Cole’s frustration was evident, he could accurately repeat twice: “It didn’t beat us.” The knock that kept the Yanks ahead came in the fifth inning, when Trevino followed a Hicks triple with a sky-high popup that carried an expected batting average of .010.
This was the 1 percent moment: the ball eluded first baseman Franchy Cordero, falling on the infield grass for a run-scoring double — briefly changed by the official scorer to an error, then switched back, restoring Trevino’s hit and RBI.
“I know [Cordero] doesn’t have a ton of experience in the infield,” Boone said. “It kind of drifted on him a little bit. He was wary of the catcher, then you start scrambling and it’s too late.”
Cole — with three scoreless innings of relief help from Wandy Peralta (two strikeouts in 1 1/3 frames), Michael King (one walk in two-thirds of an inning) and Clay Holmes (one K in the ninth for his 16th save) — made sure it held up.
“This was huge,” Holmes said. “We know that’s how we’re going to win a lot of games, just everybody jumping in and making little plays. It’s just big, the bullpen coming in and holding them there to one run. It’s a big team win for us.”