Cole 'excited for the challenge' of facing Sox

October 5th, 2021

BOSTON -- Gerrit Cole will be prepared, no matter what happens in Tuesday’s American League Wild Card Game.

When the Yankees right-hander walks to the mound at Fenway Park, he will undoubtedly have consumed every available scouting-report nugget, inhaling gigabytes of video concerning the Red Sox lineup that he plans to dismantle.

“It’s like, ‘Can we get it going already?’” Cole said. “It’s like a bit of a waiting game, which is good for the body and good for the mind, to a certain extent, to recover. But you’re champing at the bit to get back out there. I’m excited for the challenge that’s ahead of us.”

Cole ended his regular season on a sour note, knocked by the Blue Jays for five runs and nine hits over six innings in the Yankees’ 6-5 loss at Rogers Centre on Sept. 29 -- an outing that likely ended any realistic chance of Cole securing the AL Cy Young Award.

Blaming poor location for those results, Cole said he intends to return to form against Boston, a team that he limited to Rafael Devers’ three-run homer over six solid innings on Sept. 24 at Fenway Park.

“I don’t think he’s far off at all,” Yanks manager Aaron Boone said. “I think the stuff is there. In Toronto the other day, they banged him for a couple of home runs on a couple of just-missed heaters. So I think everything is there for him to put it together [Tuesday]. It’s just about executing in the right quadrants against a good team.”

While Cole played catch and intended to unplug a little before the start -- his plans on a rainy Monday evening included a good dinner in Boston with his wife, Amy -- Yankees catcher Kyle Higashioka said that he planned to continue dissecting and reviewing the Red Sox lineup until the moment his head hit the pillow.

“They have a lot of good hitters, and we’re going to have to make pitches in those situations to be successful,” Cole said. “Whether that’s making sure you nail the delivery or being in the right mindset to execute the pitch, that’s what we’ve been working on this week. I’m looking to bring it out [Tuesday].”

No chitchat
Cole downplayed a storyline from this summer’s All-Star Game, when the Yankees' ace was said to have snubbed members of the Red Sox before the game at Coors Field. Boston’s J.D. Martinez made the comments, captured on video, while speaking in Spanish to members of the Blue Jays.

“I don’t recall having tons of conversations with them,” Cole said. “They were kind of on other sides of the clubhouse. I certainly don’t remember some of the exchanges that have been reported.”

According to Martinez, Cole shunned a Red Sox contingent on the American League bus that included Xander Bogaerts and Devers. Cole’s final start of the first half was an electric 129-pitch, complete-game victory on July 10 against the Astros at Minute Maid Park.

“I was still kind of not feeling too hot those couple days there coming out of Houston, so I wasn’t maybe quite myself,” Cole said. “But also, maybe it wasn’t quite what other people try to portray me like.”

Pick your poison
With the possibility of a four-team tie in the AL Wild Card race still alive entering play on Sunday, the final day of the regular season, the Yankees had the opportunity to decide between playing the Red Sox in Boston or the Blue Jays in Toronto as a potential tiebreaker.

Though it did not materialize, New York opted to face Boston under that scenario, in part because of the added hurdles in traveling to Canada for one game, but also because it swept a three-game series at Fenway Park last week.

“Maybe partly us having a good week gives us a little added confidence coming in here like, ‘OK, we can do this,’” Boone said. “But had we lost two of three last week, I think, frankly, we’d feel the same way walking in here.”

This date in Yankees history
Oct. 4, 1953: Mickey Mantle became the fourth player in World Series history to hit a grand slam, slugging a third-inning blast off the Dodgers’ Russ Meyer in Game 5 at Ebbets Field. Mantle joined Elmer Smith (1920), Tony Lazzeri ('36) and Gil McDougald ('51) in accomplishing the feat.