The blazing fastball was the fastest pitch by any starter in 2019, according to Statcast. The All-Star right-hander hit the 100-mph mark seven times in the Astros’ 4-0 win over the Angels, surpassing his previous career high of three 100-plus pitches in a game.
“Exceptional across the board, from intensity to execution to game planning,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said in describing Cole’s nine-strikeout, three-hit performance. “I could nitpick in that there [was] a walk or two in there, but what a great day for him to shoulder the workload and come out of it with seven scoreless innings.
“He threw a lot of changeups. He threw some breaking balls. He threw some low bullets which everybody talks about [since] he throws the high fastball more nowadays. He was just so creative and so good.”
Cole has held the opposition to two earned runs or fewer in each of his past eight starts.
Cole (9-5) received enough run support with 10 Houston hits, including Yuli Gurriel’s fifth homer in his past four games. The home run, which led off the sixth inning, extended Gurriel’s season-best hitting streak to 10 games.
The Angels managed only four hits off three Houston pitchers. Cole extended his winning streak to five games, and he leads the American League with 170 strikeouts.
“I was just executing a handful of pitches, and I stuck with them,” said Cole, who allowed only two runners to reach second base all game.
Cole got stronger as the game progressed.
“I was feeling strong, and I thought I pretty much had all the pitches,” Cole said. “The curveball command was a little spotty, but we were able to start to get ahead of guys more and that opened up the zone for us.”
“Even the hits he gave up, shifty ground-ball double, single through the left side, and then the one human in the world who could probably get a hit on the slider, 3-2, was Trout,” Hinch said.
Cole recorded strikeouts to end the third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh innings.
“He can really finish innings,” Hinch said. “He finishes hitters. He was locked in with what he was trying to do.”
The Astros’ All-Star infielder Alex Bregman, who had two hits and reached base three times, enjoys his perspective of watching Cole on the mound.
“He’s so fun to play behind,” Bregman said. “Especially when I get to play shortstop [and] I get to see the break on his pitches, it’s really impressive. He’s a bulldog competitor, and that’s the guy you want to play behind.”
Added Houston right fielder George Springer, who reached base on two walks Saturday, “[He’s the] ultimate competitor. Our team knows that when he takes the ball, he’s going to fight and keep us in the game.
“He’s learned to pitch, how to plus and minus his fastball which is why he is so good.”
Michael Brantley, who had four hits including a home run and two doubles on Friday, was not in Houston’s starting lineup on Saturday due to right hamstring soreness.