The Yankees would have found a way, during the first half of the season, to win the game they played Friday night.
This is not the first half of the season anymore.
Closer Clay Holmes struggled for a second straight appearance, coming in in the eighth inning and giving up an infield hit, a walk and a two-run, go-ahead double to Paul DeJong, as the Yankees lost their third straight, 4-3 to the Cardinals at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.
With a reconfigured bullpen, manager Aaron Boone went to Holmes in the bottom of the eighth with a 3-2 lead. Boone later said that Aroldis Chapman would have pitched in the ninth had the Yankees still been ahead.
“It’s not easy for us right now,’’ Boone said of his team, which is 70-36, but is just 12-16 over the last 28 games.
Holmes wasn’t the only culprit. The Yankees scored just three runs, and didn’t score at all after the fifth, despite outhitting St. Louis, 10-5.
“It’s pretty frustrating,’’ said Matt Carpenter, who had two hits and a near-homer, but grounded out to end the game with the tying run on first. “It definitely feels like a game we kind of had control of the whole time. They kept it close and put us away.”
The eighth inning started innocently, as Holmes gave up a soft infield hit to Nolan Arenado with one out. He then walked Tyler O’Neill with two out before DeJong — now 5-for-7 against Holmes — smacked a two-run double.
“Something that’s made me successful is limiting contact to righties,’’ Holmes said. “Giving up a double down the line, especially with runners on, can’t happen.”
The fact that Chapman has pitched better of late, as well as the addition of Scott Effross (who was acquired from the Cubs on Monday and pitched well in 1 ¹/₃ innings Friday) and Lou Trivino at the deadline, figures to make for a much different bullpen down the stretch.
“Hopefully we all get rolling like we’re capable of and [Chapman] is building momentum,’’ Boone said. “We’ve got a lot of options there.”
That would allow Holmes to attack right-handers in the seventh, eighth or ninth, but he has been less effective of late.
Nestor Cortes pitched well, but was not as sharp as usual, tying a season high with four walks in just 5 ¹/₃ innings.
The Yankees took the lead in the top of the first after DJ LeMahieu led off with a walk. Aaron Judge flied out, but LeMahieu moved to third on a Carpenter single.
With two out, Josh Donaldson drilled an RBI double to right-center, scoring LeMahieu and sending Carpenter to third.
The Cardinals tied the score in the bottom of the second thanks to a pair of walks by Cortes and a two-out, run-scoring single by Yadier Molina.
Donaldson came up with his second RBI of the night in the third, singling in a run after Judge and Carpenter led off with singles against Dakota Hudson.
Torres delivered in the fifth. After Judge singled and stole second, he moved to third on a Carpenter groundout after Hudson was replaced by Andre Pallante. Torres then reached on an infield hit that drove in Judge to make it 3-1.
Cortes, who’d allowed just three runs in 18 innings over his previous three starts, settled into a groove after Molina’s RBI single, retiring nine straight until a walk in the fifth.
But Cortes also matched a season-high with four walks, including one to Paul Goldschmidt that ended Cortes’ night with one out in the bottom of the sixth.
A wild pitch by Albert Abreu, who took over for Cortes, sent Goldschmidt to second.
A single by Arenado put runners on the corners before Abreu struck out Nolan Gorman, pinch-hitting for Albert Pujols, for the second out.
But Abreu faltered and allowed a hit by O’Neill to make it 3-2, as Cortes ended up being charged with two runs.
Effross entered and struck out DeJong to preserve the one-run lead.
Pallante, meanwhile, took over for Hudson and tossed four scoreless innings.
Ryan Hesley finished the game for the Cardinals. After he walked LeMahieu with one out in the ninth, Tim Locastro pinch ran, but Judge and Carpenter couldn’t come through.