Twice as nice? Cole, too, flirts with perfection

June 4th, 2022

NEW YORK -- Another day, another Yankees starting pitcher flirting with history.

One day after took a perfect game into the eighth inning against the Angels, was untouchable into the seventh, finally permitting his first hit on Jonathan Schoop’s clean two-out single during New York's 13-0 win over the Tigers at Yankee Stadium on Friday.

“It was pretty exciting,” Cole said. “The fans were in it. I heard them chanting my name, which was pretty magical. It just means so much to us when we have them behind us. It can be such a force and almost will us to do better.”

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Yankees are the first team in the Expansion Era (since 1961) to have perfect game bids of six or more innings in consecutive games.

“You realize there’s zeros up there and he’s in a pretty good place,” said Yankees manager Aaron Boone. “Another great effort by one of our starters.” 

The Yanks have won four straight games and eight of their last 10. With 37 victories against 15 losses, they have matched the best 52-game start by any Major League club since 2002, joining the 2020 Dodgers and 2016 Cubs -- both of whom went on to claim the World Series championship trophy. 

Cole struck out the side in the third and sixth innings, beginning the seventh inning at 86 pitches and holding a rich 12-0 lead, thanks largely to home runs by , (his Major League-leading 20th, part of a four-hit performance), and Matt Carpenter.

“I haven’t been here very long, but it seems like every night we’re flirting with a no-hitter,” Carpenter said. “Gerrit was outstanding, just in complete control. Just doing what he does, it’s pretty special.” 

According to Elias, Carpenter joined Dave Kingman (1977) and Eric Hinske (2009) as the only Yankees to homer for four of their first five hits with the club.

But the focus was on Cole, especially when Willi Castro flew out to Judge to begin the seventh, and second baseman  made a sharp sliding play to smother a Harold Castro grounder for the second out of the inning. 

Schoop lined Cole’s 93rd pitch past a diving LeMahieu, who smashed his right fist into the outfield turf in frustration.

“Probably immediately, you just say, ‘Dang it,’” Cole said. “And then you’ve got to lock it in for the next pitch. After I saw the swing, I had a pretty good feeling that if it was anywhere close, he was going to put a swing on it. Maybe if it wasn’t a strike, he wouldn’t have gotten some contact. He was on it.”

Cole finished his evening scattering two hits over seven innings, striking out nine without a walk. Boone said that he would have left Cole in to complete his perfect-game bid as long as he didn’t approach a “dangerous” area like 140 or 150 pitches.

Friday marked Cole's first time facing the Tigers since April 19, when he endured one of the worst starts of his career in a 1 2/3-inning effort at Comerica Park. Owning a 6.35 ERA through three starts, Cole has turned his season around, posting a 5-1 record and 2.03 ERA over the next eight starts.

“Frankly, it was a lot more of what we’ve been seeing,” Boone said. “He was kind of feeling for it in that first inning, and then once he settled in, he was just really good. There were so many good sequences and pitches. He had a little bit of everything going.”

Most tellingly, Cole has completed at least six innings in every outing since the Motown debacle.

“It’s really fun. He’s been great down the stretch,” Trevino said. “He executed pitches, mixing speeds. … We’re just trying to get as many zeros as we can to give our team a chance, and I think we’ve been doing a good job.”