Classic Cole is back! Ace K's 9 in finale

April 24th, 2022

NEW YORK -- Gerrit Cole is back.

From the very first at-bat of the game, when he blew away Myles Straw on a 99 mph fastball, to the moment he walked off the Yankee Stadium mound to a standing ovation, the Yanks' ace was his old, dominant self in a 10-2 win over the Guardians on Sunday afternoon.

Cole pitched 6 2/3 shutout innings to lead the Yankees to their first sweep of Cleveland since May 2018, allowing just four hits and one walk while racking up nine strikeouts.

“He's Gerrit Cole. He's one of the best pitchers in the sport,” manager Aaron Boone said. “So he wants to do his thing, and there's that pressure of breaking through and having this kind of outing. But I also feel like it's been right there on the surface.”

It was Cole's best start of the season by far. The issues that plagued the right-hander over his first three outings disappeared as he overpowered the Guardians' lineup.

There was no jumping on him early, like the Red Sox did on Opening Day. There was no long-ball damage, like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and the Blue Jays did to him in his second start. There was no command unraveling, like what happened in his 1 2/3-inning, five-walk slog against the Tigers his last time out.

There was only Cole striking out Cleveland hitter after Cleveland hitter, with his full arsenal working. Cole got five strikeouts on his four-seam fastball, which averaged 97.7 mph, plus two on his slider, one on his knuckle-curve and one on his new cutter.

“I haven't been kidding when I've said it's about to pop,” Boone said of Cole breaking out. “I feel like he knows he's there. I think he's frustrated and pissed a little bit that he hasn't gone out and had that game yet. But I feel like mentally he knows he's there. … That's part of the reason I've been heartened even after these first few starts, is I feel like he knows this has been coming.”

Those nine strikeouts looked like Cole at his best. 

• In the first inning, he got two K’s with big fastballs -- 98.6 mph to Straw and 98.0 mph to Josh Naylor. 

• In the second, he broke off a high-spin knuckle-curve at 2,817 rpm to get Amed Rosario chasing down-and-away.

• In the fourth, he froze Rosario with a 97.7 mph four-seamer on the low-outside corner, capping a beautiful three-pitch, all-fastball sequence where he worked Rosario down, then up, then back down in the strike zone.

• In the sixth, Cole spotted up a perfect cutter, the pitch he and Luis Severino have added to their repertoires this season, to get Straw to chase on a 1-2 count. The cutter started on the outside edge of the strike zone, looking just like Cole’s four-seamer, before breaking right off the edge to get the swing-and-miss.

• And in the seventh, Cole put the bow on his outing by running one last power fastball up and out of the strike zone and right past Naylor at 97.1 mph for strikeout No. 9.

Cole did all of this with a new catcher. This was the first time he pitched to Jose Trevino as a Yankee, after working almost exclusively with Kyle Higashioka as his de facto personal catcher since late in the 2020 season.

Both Cole and Boone said after the game that the transition to working with Trevino, who the Yankees acquired from the Rangers just before the season, was “seamless.”

It definitely looked seamless, and he got the results to show for it, but Cole still had to go out and execute better than he had all season. Asked after the game if he ever has doubts about himself after a string of bad starts, Cole was honest.

“I'm a human being, so …” he trailed off. “But I don't really have time to dwell on it. We've got bigger things to take care of.”

And he took care of things against the Guardians. While DJ LeMahieu and Anthony Rizzo were homering to give Cole plenty of breathing room, Cole was rolling. There was no doubting him Sunday.

“Breathing is a good thing,” Cole said. “Everybody can breathe today, right?”