Cole all smiles after striking out 10 in 2-hit shutout

April 16th, 2023

NEW YORK -- The steely, intense glare that accompanied through most of his splendid effort melted in the ninth inning on Sunday afternoon, the Yankees’ ace arching his neck to track Carlos Correa’s deep fly ball as it landed harmlessly in Oswaldo Cabrera’s grasp.

With that, Cole raised both hands high, slapping his right palm into the pocket of his glove. It was, as he’d later put it, an “old school” performance -- a 10-strikeout complete game in the Yanks’ 2-0 victory over the Twins at Yankee Stadium, continuing a terrific start to the season for the right-hander.

“We had a good approach, good command,” said Cole, who improved to 4-0 with an 0.95 ERA in four starts. “You’re giving yourself a chance to have success when you’re executing so many pitches.”

As Cole accepted congratulations from catcher Jose Trevino and the rest of his teammates, he glanced toward the field-level seats, raising his right hand to wave. Cole’s wife, Amy, and their young son, Caden, were on their way toward the first-base dugout, and Cole grinned gleefully as he handed his 3-year-old the game ball.

“That was cool. He woke me up at 5:15 this morning, came in and poked me, and I was like, ‘Dude, what are you doing? We’ve got to get back to sleep,’” Cole said. “He slept, but not quite as long as I did. But he was excited about the game when I left and told me he would see me at the park.

“It was pretty magical. He really remembers these moments; he’ll sit around and talk about it.”

Indeed, it would be a memorable ballpark visit for the whole family. The outing marked Cole’s fourth career shutout, coming in a performance in which his fourth-inning strikeout of Correa moved him past Hall of Famer Whitey Ford (1,956) for 97th on the all-time strikeouts list.

It was also Cole’s 23rd outing of 10 or more strikeouts as a Yankee, equaling Ron Guidry for most in franchise history. Manager Aaron Boone credited Cole’s fastball command to all quadrants of home plate, saying that he has been “in a really locked-in, focused place.”

“Even going into this year, I think he’s probably been on some level underrated, underappreciated,” Boone said. “He’s great. He’s a great pitcher that, I believe, is going to end up in Cooperstown one day. He’s so responsible and diligent, and cares about his profession, his team, his teammates. He’s all in.”

DJ LeMahieu provided all of Cole's offensive support, as the Yankees touched Pablo López for two runs and seven hits. LeMahieu stroked a run-scoring single in the third inning, then clipped the top of the right-field wall for a solo homer in the sixth.

“[Cole] was pretty locked in, so I didn’t feel like we needed a whole lot,” LeMahieu said. “That’s about as good as you can pitch.”

Cole did not permit a hit until Donovan Solano’s single to left field with two outs in the fifth inning, then he allowed just one more the rest of the way -- Michael A. Taylor’s single to center field in the sixth. Cole grinned goofily when Trevor Larnach hit a deep fly in the seventh, watching it die on the warning track.

“I’ve never seen him take the mound and not have dominant-type stuff,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “That doesn’t mean you’re going to be dominant, but he always looks good. First pitch of the game is always crisp; last pitch of his outing is always crisp. Everything in-between, it’s good.

“He was more locked in today and making better pitches than normal, and sometimes, that’s what you get.”

Through eight innings, Cole had thrown 98 pitches, and Boone approached him for a dugout temperature check.

“I was sticking with him as long as I felt like he was sound,” Boone said. “I usually get a pretty good feel for him. He was kind of like, ‘Whatever.’ So I was like, ‘Let’s go.’”

With that, Cole returned to the mound in the ninth; Clay Holmes loosened in the bullpen, just in case. Cole rewarded Boone’s faith with another breezy frame, inducing a popout and two flyouts, prompting Cole’s transition into Dad mode. 

It was suggested that the complete game created that priceless father-son memory; to that, Cole shook his head and grinned.  

“He probably would have stuck around for a win, because honestly, he wants to see Aaron Judge,” Cole said.