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Cole racks up 11 strikeouts vs. Halos

California kid records 24 swings and misses in dominant homecoming
@SarahWexler32
July 18, 2019

ANAHEIM -- Gerrit Cole was tasked with playing stopper for the Astros on Wednesday night at Angel Stadium, and Houston’s offense provided him with ample backing to accomplish that. Staked to an 11-run lead, the right-hander gave the Astros some much-needed length by firing seven innings of one-run ball and

ANAHEIM -- Gerrit Cole was tasked with playing stopper for the Astros on Wednesday night at Angel Stadium, and Houston’s offense provided him with ample backing to accomplish that.

Staked to an 11-run lead, the right-hander gave the Astros some much-needed length by firing seven innings of one-run ball and striking out 11 in an 11-2 win. It was Cole’s 11th double-digit strikeout game of the season, the most of any MLB pitcher.

Box score

“We played great, and it started on the mound,” manager AJ Hinch said. “Gerrit did a great job setting the intensity. We had three runs in the first, good at-bats, and then Gerrit took over and was really dominant. I think coming back from the way this week has gone, the way the last couple games have gone, it was huge for us to just look like ourselves again and take control of the game and play the game well.”

A run-down rotation forced the Astros to use openers for the first two games of the series, and the bullpen ended up handling eight of those 16 innings. It was up to Cole to give his team’s beleaguered relief corps a reprieve.

Though Cole allowed eight baserunners on seven hits and one walk, he was able to limit the damage, with the only run coming on a fifth-inning Dustin Garneau solo shot. Cole finished off his performance by striking out the final five batters he faced, hitting 99.4 mph on his 109th and last pitch of the game. His fastball was effective as always, but his changeup -- which he threw 11 times, tying a season high set in his previous start -- also proved to be key for him.

“I used it a lot,” Cole said. “I thought it was good. I’ve thrown some better ones, but I didn’t miss in a bad spot all night, and it was the first time all year that I really located it in good spots and missed in good spots.”

Cole had his work cut out for him against an Angels lineup that strikes out as infrequently as any in baseball, but the Major League strikeout leader rose to the occasion, becoming the first to record 10 strikeouts against them this year. He did it by inducing 24 swings and misses -- also an MLB season high against the Angels.

“Good pitching can exploit some holes,” said Hinch. “They’re very tough to strike out. Certainly [Cole] had A-plus stuff tonight across the board. His changeup was very good, his breaking ball was good, his fastball hit 100 again. There’s a reason he leads the league in strikeouts. You match that with execution and pitching with the lead, pitching with some aggressiveness, he can do that against a lineup like that.”

After jumping out to a three-run lead in the first, the Astros never looked back, tacking on additional runs in the second and third before capping the barrage with a five-run fifth. George Springer homered and drove in three, Michael Brantley hit his 100th career home run and Jake Marisnick went 3-for-4.

As much as the offense, Cole credited some fine glovework from his teammates for his ability to go deep into the game.

“They’re a tough team to strike out, so we were gonna have to play sharp defense, and we did that tonight,” said Cole. “So it’s a real kind of combined team effort to get some longevity from the starter tonight and keep the bullpen fresh for tomorrow’s game.”

For Cole, Wednesday was a blueprint for how he’d like to see the Astros approach games for the remainder of the season.

“It’s important that we work on the balance that we have between having fun and playing with edge, and I thought it was a perfect example tonight of this sweet spot,” said Cole. “So we’re gonna continue to use these games to try to get better at that, get more consistent, because this is ultimately how we wanna play in the postseason.”

A native of Newport Beach, Calif., Cole grew up an Angels fan, which added an extra something special to his excellent night.

“I grew up here, watched games when they still had bleachers,” said Cole. “It’s a really unique park. Driving up the 57 today, seeing the Big ‘A,’ it’s always cool, it’s always special.

“In an industry where you don’t always get to see your family as much as you would like, getting to hug your mom after the game is nice.”

Sarah Wexler is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Los Angeles. Follow her on Twitter @SarahWexler32.