Strike that wasn’t turns tide against Cole

ST. PETERSBURG — The sixth inning was over, Gerrit Cole thought, having pumped a 99 mph fastball past Ji-Man Choi for what he expected to be a called third strike. His teammates halted their moves toward the visiting dugout, and with first base awarded on a fourth ball, the Yankees’ ace scowled and spat as he stalked behind the mound at Tropicana Field.

Cole knew that he shouldn’t let one call ruin a strong performance. Still, Cole barked to home-plate umpire Edwin Moscoso: “You missed that one!” Two batters later, Cole grimaced again after Randy Arozarena’s game-tying single — arguably the turning point of the Yankees’ 3-1 loss to the Rays on Saturday afternoon.

“It’s kind of a bummer,” Cole said, with a shrug. “Whatever.”

Yandy Díaz and Manuel Margot later connected on run-scoring singles off Michael King to tip the day in the Rays’ favor, but Cole’s full-count offering to Choi still might have been a footnote if not for what transpired next. Cole’s next four pitches all missed the strike zone, resulting in a free pass to Wander Franco.

“I think he was just being careful with Franco in that situation and wasn’t going to get beat there,” manager Aaron Boone said. “I don’t think [Cole was rattled by Choi’s walk]. I think he was just going to make his pitch.”

Cole tried a 1-1 cutter that Arozarena looped over shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa into left field, leaving the…

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