Gerrit Cole dominates, but Yankees lose to Orioles 1-0 in Aaron Judge’s return

BALTIMORE – Aaron Judge returned and Gerrit Cole shoved, but that didn’t stop the first-place Orioles from beating the last-place Yankees on Friday night after rain delayed the start of a critical series for the Bombers.

Baltimore won, 1-0, after Anthony Santander clubbed a walk-off home run in the ninth inning. Tommy Kahnle, who has struggled in recent weeks, surrendered the dagger on a 2-0 count.

“Tough, tough loss, obviously,” said Aaron Boone, whose Yankees are now 3.5 games away from the American League’s third and final wild card spot with the trade deadline approaching.

The Orioles’ tight win spoiled Aaron Judge’s return from a torn ligament in his right big toe. Having last played on June 3, Judge said he felt jumpy early on at the plate, but he settled in for three walks after lining out in his first at-bat. The DH and No. 2 hitter also said that he felt good physically.

“Shout out to all the guys down in Tampa,” Judge said, a nod to the simulated games he played in Florida earlier this week. “They got me ready with a couple good at-bats. There’s some good arms down there, and they really got me locked in. But for me, I just tried to go out there and just do my job. I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself. Just get on-base as best I can, especially for [Anthony] Rizzo and [Giancarlo] Stanton behind me, and see what happens.”

While the Yankees squared some balls up, not much transpired for the offense – a common occurrence when Judge was on the shelf.

O’s rookie Grayson Rodriguez recorded the longest – and arguably best – start of his young career, blanking the Yankees for 6.1 innings while limiting them to three hits. The 23-year-old cracked 100 miles per hour four times and still had high-90s heat in his final frames.

“Obviously, that’s a big arm, and he’s coming off a good start his last time,” Boone said. “He had enough of a presence with his breaking ball and his changeup to still allow his fastball to really work, which he had going tonight. We had a couple chances against him. But obviously, we got to find a way to do more.”

A prized pitching prospect before the season, Rodriguez has now recorded two strong starts in a row, as Boone noted. However, he entered the game with a 6.91 ERA, continuing a trend of the Yankees disappointing against starters with inflated marks.

The Yankees recorded just one more hit after Rodriguez departed, and they left six runners on base.

With no run support provided, Gerrit Cole kept the Yankees in the game with seven dominant innings. He, too, did not allow a run while limiting the opposition to three hits. He also struck out five and didn’t walk any Orioles.

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“Really good mix,” Cole said of his outing. “Really good execution and good use of the off-speed and good locations. [Catcher] Ben [Rortvedt] was picking good spots.”

Cameras caught Cole shaking Rortvedt off repeatedly at one point toward the end of his night, but the pitcher chalked that up to a tense game and working through things with a young backstop who hasn’t caught the starter much.

The Yankees will now try to even the series on Saturday when Clarke Schmidt starts against Tyler Wells. It remains to be seen if Judge will play a second consecutive day, as Boone had already said the slugger should expect an off day this weekend before inclement weather prolonged Friday’s day at the office.

“I’m looking forward to kind of sitting down with him here a little bit and just seeing how it all went and see how he’s feeling right now,” Boone said. “And obviously check in tomorrow.”

Judge, meanwhile, would love to make up for lost time.

“I’m trying to play every one, so I gotta talk to him after we talk here,” he said. “I had a lot of missed time. So I gotta get back out there.

“Boonie might have some other ideas, but we’ll talk about it.”

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