Cole 'focused' in return, backed by 5 NY HRs

September 15th, 2021

BALTIMORE -- pushed his start back two days after leaving his last outing with left hamstring tightness. Prior to Tuesday’s series opener against the Orioles, manager Aaron Boone said he expected a typical “Gerrit Cole start.”

In the Yankees’ 7-2 win, Cole did just that. He fanned seven while allowing one run, four hits and three walks. Though he only tossed five innings, it was enough to earn him his 15th win of the season.

“[The Orioles] worked back into the count, so that drove his pitch count up,” said Boone of Cole’s 108-pitch outing. “So you know, it was work for him on a humid night here through those five innings. But I thought, stuff-wise -- especially fastball-curveball combination -- I thought [they] were really good tonight.”

The Yankees’ ace is one of three pitchers with as many wins this season -- joining Julio Urías (17) and Adam Wainwright (16).

The Yankees closed the gap in the AL Wild Card race with the win, as the Blue Jays were shut out by the Rays earlier in the evening. A win by Boston (82-65) in Seattle later in the night created a virtual three-way tie with New York (81-64) and Toronto (81-64).

“I don't know if we're thinking about the stretch,” said Cole. “We’ve got to get focused on one series at a time, one game at a time and get this one out of the way. … We’ve got work to do tomorrow. And that's what we're focused on.”

Behind Cole, the Yankees continued to rake, with home runs accounting for all of the offense. Aaron Judge smacked his fourth home run in four games during the first inning, giving Cole a comfortable 2-0 lead before even taking the mound.

“I still feel like we can be our best,” said Boone of the offense. “They continue to grind these [at-bats] out. Our best offensive days are still ahead of us.”

Giancarlo Stanton and Luke Voit went back-to-back in the third frame, adding three insurance runs for New York. Joey Gallo wanted in on the big fly fun, so he sent a ball sailing 402 feet to right-center field in the eighth. And one more for good measure came from DJ LeMahieu in the ninth. He recorded the fifth homer of the game, tying the Yanks’ most in a single game this season (April 30).

“It's definitely fun when we can all hit some homers,” said Stanton. “We're just happy we're on top and make sure we get a win. We can joke around and stuff after the game, but it’s go-time now.”

New York combined for a multihomer game for the sixth straight contest -- the longest streak since an eight-game stretch from July 26-Aug. 5, 2020.

While the team makes a push to play into October, the race for the American League Cy Young Award remains wide open. Cole’s performance may have given him a slight edge, as it proved that he would not need an IL stint. His 2.75 ERA is second only to Toronto’s Robbie Ray (2.69). Though both pitchers just faced the Orioles, their stat lines looked very different.

Last Friday, Ray allowed eight hits and three runs over 4 1/3 innings in Baltimore, tying his shortest start of the season. While Cole didn’t pitch deep into the game on Tuesday, he still held the Orioles to a single run.

Cole’s 224 strikeouts are fifth-most all-time from a Yankees pitcher in a single season and just behind Zack Wheeler’s 225 for the MLB lead.

“I'm aware,” Cole said with a smile and a laugh. “I'm trying not to think about it. But you are not making it easy.”