The Yankees blank again, 4-0, as Aaron Hicks leads the struggles against the Rays

May August 15, 2022, forever be known as the Aaron Hicks game absolutely no one asked for.

Led by the ineptitude of their center fielder, the Yankees’ offense continued its precipitous fall into the abyss, dropping to a horrible 8 runs scored in their last 59 innings (and 3 in their last 34). Meanwhile, new bullpen arm Lou Triviño had a nuclear meltdown in the ninth to put this one truly out of reach, 4-0, as the Yankees were shut out in consecutive games for the first time in six years.

From the get-go, there was a clear strategy on the part of both sides to attack pitches early in the count. Gerrit Cole converted two outs on three pitches and needed only seven to complete the inning. Gleyber Torres justified his leadoff spot with a single on the first pitch, but he was erased with a GIDP on the first pitch from Aaron Judge. Not wanting to be left out, Anthony Rizzo doubled on the first pitch to right, though a Josh Donaldson strikeout left him stranded, giving Rays starter Jalen Beeks a six-pitch first pitch.

Cole was on pace for another fast inning, again needing only three pitches to record the first two outs. However, a seven-pitch at-bat by Ji-Man Choi ended with a soft ground ball that Isiah Kiner-Falefa kicked, extending the inning. Cole found his rhythm after a walk awarded to Taylor Walls, outpacing Jose Siri with a 98 mph fastball to pin the pair down.

In the bottom of the second, the Yankees put up a pair with two outs on José Treviño’s single and a Kiner-Falefa HBP, but Hicks struck out in what would be the first of many blunders by the Yankees’ center. The next outfielder came in the next inning when he was spun on David Peralta’s deep fly ball, which led to a triple. Words don’t do it justice:

Peralta would come to score the first run of the game on a single by Isaac Paredes.

We didn’t have to wait long for Hicks’ third head-slapping moment. The Bombers, hit-less, really loaded the bases with a Miguel Andújar single, Andrew Benintendi bunt and error range, and an IKF single. Hicks stepped forward to swing bunt into an inning-ending double play. It was his fourth MLB-leading GIDP with the bases loaded this season.

Cole would end up giving the Yankees a solid six innings, and you can’t even blame him for the one run allowed. This was easily the best switch command we’ve seen from him this year, as he used it to good effect against the Rays’ lefties. He also fixed the slider and knuckle curve, which induced a 40 percent sniff rate on each of the switches. Unfortunately, the offense didn’t do Cole any favors, as 13 innings went into this start and the last time he allowed one run without receiving any supporting runs. His bottom line: six innings, five hits, one run, two walks and six strikeouts on 104 pitches.

Jonathan Loáisiga and Wandy Peralta combined for two perfect innings of relief in the seventh and eighth, with the former scoring back-to-back strikeouts on the slider and changeup to end the seventh. Unfortunately, the efforts of the pitching staff (with one notable exception) would be wasted by languid bats. They didn’t get a hit in the fifth, sixth or seventh innings, and Torres’ second single of the day, this time leading off the eighth, was nullified by Judge’s second double-play ball.

Boone perhaps left Peralta too long, as he walked Paredes and Taylor Walls before being taken out by Triviño. Things quickly fell apart from there. He gave up a single to Siri to make it 2-0 for the Rays, and he followed up hitting Francisco Mejia in the foot. The right-handed reliever put the final nail in his team’s coffin by giving up a two-run single to Yandy Diaz to put the Yankees in an intractable 4-0 hole. It is the first time the Yankees have been out in consecutive games from September 22 to 24, 2016, when they went three games in a row without scoring.

Tomorrow sees Néstor Cortés take on Jeffrey Springs. The first pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.

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