Clay Holmes took another lead to sink the Yankees in a loss to the Cardinals

The Yankees could have found a way in the first half of the season to win a game Friday night.

It’s not the first half of the season anymore.

Closer Clay Holmes struggled for the second straight game, coming into the eighth inning with an infield hit, a walk and two runs, leading off Paul DeJong’s double, as the Yankees lost their third in a row, 4–3. to the Cardinals at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

With a reconfigured bullpen, manager Aaron Boone headed 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 if the Yankees were still ahead.

“It’s not easy for us right now,” Boone said of his team, which is 70-36, but just 12-16 in its past 28 games.

Holmes was not the only one to blame. The Yankees scored just three runs, and despite losing to St. Louis, 10-5, went scoreless after the fifth.

“It’s pretty disappointing,” said Matt Carpenter, who had two hits and a near-homer, but grounded out to end the game with the tying first. “It definitely felt like a game we controlled the whole time. They kept it close and drove us away. “

The eighth inning started innocuously, as Holmes gave up a soft infield hit to Nolan Arenado with one out. He then struck out Tyler O’Neal with two outs before DeJong — now 5-for-7 — had a two-run double against Holmes.

“Something that helped me succeed was limiting contact with authority,” Holmes said. “Leaving a double down the line, especially with runners on, can’t happen.”

The fact that Chapman has pitched well of late, as well as Scott Afros (who was acquired from the Cubs on Monday and pitched 1 ¹/₃ innings on Friday) and Lou Trevino at the deadline, figures to be a very different bullpen down the stretch.

“Hopefully we’re all capable and [Chapman] keeps the momentum going,” Boone said. “We’ve got a lot of options out there.”

That would allow Holmes to attack right-handers in the seventh, eighth or ninth, but he has been less effective as of late.

Nestor Cortes pitched well, but wasn’t 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 walked. Aaron Judge flied out, but LeMahew Carpenter went to third on a single.

With two outs, 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 two-out, run-scoring double by Cortes and Yadier Molina.

Donaldson came up with his second RBI of the night in the third after Judge and Carpenter led off with singles against Dakota Hudson.

Torres delivered in the fifth. After Judge singled and stole second, Carpenter moved to third on a groundout after Hudson was replaced by Andre Pallante. Torres then reached on an infield hit that brought Judge up 3-1.

Cortes, who had allowed just three runs in 18 innings in his previous three starts, settled into a groove after Molina’s RBI single, retiring nine straight until the fifth walk.

But Cortes also tied a season-high with four walks, including a 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, striking out Albert Pujols for the second out.

But Abreu fumbled and allowed O’Neal’s hit to make it 3-2, as two runs scored on Cortes.

Efros stepped in and struck out DeJong to preserve the one-run lead.

Pallante, meanwhile, took over for Hudson and tossed four scoreless innings.

Ryan Heasley 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 get through.