NEW YORK, NEW YORK - AUGUST 31: Gerrit Cole #45 of the New York Yankees reacts in the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium on August 31, 2020 in New York City.
(Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

The New York Yankees come up short against the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 5 of the ALDS, but don’t be fooled by the cold bats.

Danny Small

Game 5 of the ALDS. It’s the New York Yankees and Gerrit Cole vs. the Tampa Bay Rays and, seemingly, their entire pitching staff. The Yankees had to feel good about their chances coming into this game, but it wasn’t meant to be.

Cole worked through 5.1 innings allowing one run on a big solo home run. Zack Britton navigated 1.1 innings without allowing a run. Hell, even Aroldis Chapman looked sharp despite his one fatal mistake to Mike Brosseau.

The only offense the Yankees could muster up was a solo shot from Aaron Judge in the fourth inning. Both teams were going for broke on nearly every swing of the night.

The thought process behind this approach is simple. It’s going to be nearly impossible to string together three or four good at-bats in a row against the elite pitching on both sides. As a result, both teams were looking to jump on one mistake for a home run. The Yankees struck first, but the Rays struck last.

Tampa Bay deserved to win. The bad blood between the Yankees and Rays isn’t over, but Tampa Bay is getting the last laugh in 2020. They were able to dance on the Yankees’ grave on Friday night.

It’s another disappointing postseason end for the Yankees and something needs to change for them to take another step forward, but it’s not what you think.

“Need Contact Hitters!”

The biggest gripe many fans will have with Game 5 is that the Yankees couldn’t string together a rally. Fans are going to want more guys like DJ LeMahieu on the team so that the Yankees are no longer a “home run or nothing” team.

Well, the first retort to this is that LeMahieu, the best contact hitter in baseball, was hapless in Game 5 much like the big sluggers on the team. Don’t fool yourself into thinking bringing in a couple of “Punch and Judy” hitters would have changed anything about Friday night. There aren’t many elite contact guys like LeMahieu out there anyway.

The Rays pitching was simply too good to string together long rallies. The Yankees were too, for what it’s worth. That’s why both teams were looking for one mistake they could put into the stands. It’s as simple as that.

Shore Up Starting Pitching

First things first, Cole is a stud. He threw 18.1 innings this postseason and only allowed six runs while striking out 30 batters. Of course, he couldn’t go that deep into Game 5 because of a few long at-bats, but there’s no doubt that he is the bonafide ace the Yankees have long needed.

But this series turned on a dime in Game 2 and New York’s lack of reliable starters at the top of the rotation forced them into the questionable move to use Deivi Garcia as an opener before going to J.A. Happ in the second. The plan backfired in a major way.

The ever-reliable Masahiro Tanaka laid an egg in Game 3 and the Yankees were forced to try and come from behind to win the series. The plan should still be to re-sign Tanaka despite his 2020 postseason struggles. He’s as reliable as they come and is a perfect No. 3 or 4 starter.

Luis Severino should return from Tommy John rehab sometime next summer. If he can return to what he was pre-injury, he’s going to fill that No. 2 role behind Cole.

However, a rotation of Cole, Severino, Tanaka, and some combination of Garcia, Domingo German, Jordan Montgomery, Clarke Schmidt, and Michael King isn’t enough — clearly.

If that’s the rotation going into next season, general manager Brian Cashman is relying heavily on Severino to come back completely healthy and one of the young arms to make a significant leap forward. It would be unwise to plan for both of those things to happen and have the rest of the staff stay healthy.

Trevor Bauer is the best arm on the market, but given his history with Cole, he doesn’t seem like a likely option. If the Yankees are willing to shell out the money, the best option might be New York native Marcus Stroman.

Stroman hasn’t pitched since 2019 due to a calf injury and his subsequent opt-out of the 2020 season. With that said, the Yankees know what kind of pitcher he is from facing him in Toronto for 5.5 seasons. In fact, there were even rumblings that the Yankees were interested in Stroman at the 2019 deadline, but the asking price was too high.

Sitting back and hoping for the best in the rotation can’t happen. Signing Stroman would give the Yankees a solid No. 2 until Severino returns. Cole-Severino-Stroman in a postseason series would be a strong 1-2-3.

If not Stroman, it has to be someone. Adding another frontline starter has to be at the top of Cashman’s to-do list this offseason. Much more so than adding “contact” to the lineup.

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