BALTIMORE – In a start that mirrored his first season with with the New York Yankees, Gerrit Cole was sailing along in dominant fashion before things went horribly awry.
Cole endured a nightmarish sixth inning against the Baltimore Orioles, who got a slump-breaking homer from DJ Stewart before tacking on four unearned runs in a 6-1 victory Saturday night.
After signing with New York in December for a reported $324 million over nine years, Cole won his first four decisions to extend his personal winning streak to 20 games.
Since then, the right-hander has lost three straight starts for the first time since July 30-Aug. 10, 2018, with Houston.
This outing, like Cole's season, started well before going south. Cole (4-3) allowed one baserunner over the first five innings before the Orioles broke open a scoreless game with a five-run sixth.
“It's a fickle game. It can change quickly," Cole said. “They put some good swings together at the right time."
He struck out 10 and allowed only one earned run and four hits over six innings. Solid numbers, but Cole still got an L next to his name in the box score.
“I try to take the good stuff from it, but in the end, especially right now, it just doesn’t feel like it was good enough," he said.
Manager Aaron Boone preferred to look at the positive aspects of Cole's start rather than the unsettling finish.
“If you’re watching that game tonight, that’s as dominant as you can be for five innings," Boone said. “I do think there’s some more things to continue to work on out of the stretch, and some subtle things."
Cole struck out eight of the first nine batters he faced, the exception a grounder to shortstop by Ryan Mountcastle. The only Oriole to reach over the first five innings was José Iglesias, who doubled to left-center on an 0-2 pitch with two outs in the fourth.
But the Yankees couldn't mount any offense against Baltimore rookie Keegan Akin, so the game was scoreless heading into the bottom of the sixth.
Stewart was 0 for 17 this season before leading off with a drive over the right-field wall.
“I laid off a first-pitch breaking ball, then he came to the same spot with the fastball and I was on time," Stewart said.
A throwing error by third baseman Thairo Estrada preceded two walks and a two-run single by Mountcastle, and Rio Ruiz capped the uprising with a two-run double.
Cole insisted Estrada's miscue wasn't really an issue.
“I should have stopped the bleeding. I should have picked him up," Cole said.
Cole finished with 10 strikeouts over six innings. He allowed four hits and just one earned run.
After Cole departed, Stewart homered again, in the seventh off Miguel Yajure for a 6-0 lead. It was the first multihomer game for Stewart, who will be seeing more playing time after Anthony Santander was put on the injured list Saturday with a strained right oblique.
Cole was brilliant at the outset, but so was Akin in his fourth career appearance and second start. The 2016 second-round draft pick allowed no runs and three hits over 5 1/3 innings, striking out eight with four walks.
Akin took pride in getting locked in a duel with one of the best — and most certainly highest paid — pitchers in the game.
“Obviously, with that caliber of pitcher on the mound you have to go out and keep your team in the game and hope they put up runs," Akin said. “And they did."
Akin was replaced by Dillon Tate (1-0), who pitched 1 1/3 hitless innings to earn his first major league victory.
Clint Frazier hit a solo homer for the Yankees, who have dropped two straight to the rebuilding Orioles after beating them 19 times in a row.
“We're building a nice foundation here, playing playoff teams night after night, teams with huge payrolls," manager Brandon Hyde said.
Gleyber Torres returned to the New York lineup after missing two weeks with a left quad and hamstring injury. The shortstop went 1 for 3 with a walk and a double.
Yankees: The return of Torres wasn't the only good news on the injury front. Manager Aaron Boone said OF Aaron Judge (calf) is improving and “will start to ramp it up a bit" on Monday. Boone said Giancarlo Stanton (hamstring) is running at 80 percent and is ahead of Judge in terms of making it back. ... INF DJ LeMahieu didn't start, but it had nothing to do with his recent thumb injury. “He’s been doing really well," Boone said.
Orioles: Santander is likely out for the season. “It’s definitely a possibility," Hyde said. “It’s a huge loss for us and he’s very disappointed."
Yankees: Masahiro Tanaka (1-1, 3.38 ERA) pitches for New York in the series finale Sunday. Tanaka got a late start to the season because of a concussion, but is no longer on a stringent pitch count. “He’s probably in position to push that 100 envelope," Boone said.
Orioles: Hyde declined to name his starter on Sunday.
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