Yankees, Aaron Boone turn to ace Gerrit Cole for stopper outing as Red Sox' dominance continues: 'Every day is really important right now'

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Gerrit Cole 6/22
Gerrit Cole 6/22

Friday's loss to the Boston Red Sox -- a three-hit, 4-0 shutout before 40,130 at Yankee Stadium -- started the Yankees' second half in a downward trajectory. After missing out on a three-game sweep at the Houston Astros, capped by a ninth-inning implosion in this past Sunday's 8-7 loss, the shorthanded Yankees (46-44) fell to the Red Sox (56-36) and are once again flirting with the .500 mark.

Questions about the Yankees' collective sense of urgency have been a hot topic for manager Aaron Boone. Specifically, with ace RHP Gerrit Cole returning off a complete-game shutout in last Saturday's 1-0 win over the Astros -- he threw 129 pitches (83 strikes), capping his three-hit effort with 12 strikeouts and two walks -- Boone did not mince words about Saturday's 7:15 p.m. start.

"It's really important -- every day is really important right now," Boone said of New York's need for a bounce-back result with Cole on the mound. "Today was important (that) we come out and play well and try to get a W, and that didn't happen. Now we've got our ace going tomorrow. Now we're -- what are we, 90ish games in? Like, they're critical. We're in a hole. We've got to play really good baseball to get back into this. So win or lose tomorrow, Sunday's going to be super important. And that's -- we've got to have that focus walking to the ballpark ever day, walking in those doors every day and rinse and repeat. I mean, we've got to -- the urgency has got to be absolutely there every single day."

June 27 at Boston, a 9-2 loss to the Red Sox, Cole (9-4, 2.68 ERA) surrendered six runs (five earned) on eight hits (three home runs) with six strikeouts to two walks in five innings. The following start, Cole registered another clunker, allowing four runs on six hits over 3 1/3 innings while striking out six and walking three July 4 in a 10-5 loss to the Mets.

After a bounce-back performance against the Astros, can Cole produce more of the same? With a long layoff between the start in Houston, where he pitched through an illness, Cole is rested entering the pivotal outing.

"I think, at different times of the year ... sometimes you need the seven days," Cole said. "Sometimes you don't. I think, in this situation, coming off the being a bit ill and still having to recover after the start, this is a situation where a few extra days is appreciated. Sometimes the challenge can be that you lose a little bit of feel, but I don't think that that's always the case. It's neither black nor white and you just adjust with the flow, as things present themselves throughout the year."