Turns out, we were all looking at the wrong pitcher's hands.
For all the attention focused on the stickiness of Gerrit Cole's fingers, the Twins' 9-6 loss to the Yankees on Wednesday night might have been their first of the season caused by a manicure.
Randy Dobnak had never before allowed four homers in a game, nor had he ever issued three walks, and he certainly had never surrendered eight runs in an outing. But now he has, and the source of his ugly outing, he believes, might have been a nail salon he visited earlier in the day.
"I actually went to a salon today and got a fake nail put on, thinking that might help" prevent a blister that develops when a fingernail is ripped away, as one was during his last start in Baltimore, Dobnak explained. "It did help with the blister part, but my fingernail is completely bruised right now. It's almost like I can't finish my pitches. And when I throw the sinker, I can feel this finger is not as strong as it usually is. Which, I guess, makes it sink less."
Thus hindered by faulty fingernails and adulterated acrylic, Dobnak got his usual bushel of ground-ball outs, 10 in all. But he uncharacteristically left pitches high in the zone, particularly his new slider, and at the worst possible times.
Aaron Judge began the carnage in the first inning, smashing a slider into the left-field bleachers. Giancarlo Stanton took the long way, rocketing a pair of home runs in the third and fifth innings a total of 828 feet, one into the batters eye in center field and one clearing the high wall in right-center. Making matters even more painful than a faulty finger: Those first three home runs all came on 0-2 pitches.
"Really frustrating. They're just sliders that stayed up more than obviously I wanted them to," said Dobnak said after falling to 1-6, with an ERA now ballooned to 7.36. "I just feel like some of the pressure that I would normally have on this finger wasn't available. Some of those pitchers were just kind of weaker," including the one that Miguel Andujar launched into the Yankees' bullpen, their final blast of the night and the end to Dobnak's 4⅔-inning torment.
Cole, the Yankees' ace, also gave up a couple of home runs, but with the entire baseball world examining every move on the mound and every spin of his pitches, he also struck out nine Twins, hit 100 mph with his fastball a couple of times, and never allowed anyone not in a home-run trot to reach second base.
"He's one of the best pitchers in baseball, and that's why his name is in a lot of different conversations," including a quasi-debate with Twins third baseman Josh Donaldson about whether he's been using illegal substances to increase his spin rate, Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "There's a reason why he's a No. 1 starter and has been for a while now. He's a tough customer."
Yes, Jorge Polanco and Miguel Sano bashed long home runs against Cole, and the Twins even temporarily stirred a languid crowd with a four-run ninth-inning rally that featured Gilberto Celestino's first career hit and Polanco's second home run of the game. But the only-marginally-less-lopsided victory went to … well, who it always does.
Minnesota absorbed its second consecutive loss, fourth in a row to the Yankees and lost for the 25th time in 34 meetings with New York, and while the game was filled with who's-cheating intrigue, it turned out to be a pretty straightforward New York thrashing on the field.
"We've got to play better. We, as a whole, did not play well tonight," Baldelli said. "The at-bats as the game went on were all right. We hit some balls hard, strung things together at the end. It's just not enough."