Seemingly returning to the mound on a mission, Cole fine-tuned his tempo and carved through Baltimore's batting order with precision. Supported by home runs from DJ LeMahieu, Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks, Cole notched his second victory in as many starts as the Yankees trounced the Orioles, 9-3, at Camden Yards.
"I thought it was a big step forward," Cole said. "I liked everything relative to the last start, and so it's steady improvement."
Cole retired 14 consecutive batters and 19 of 20 after José Iglesias' first-inning RBI double in a 102-pitch, seven-strikeout effort. This week should have brought a start against the Phillies, but with that game postponed, the right-hander shifted gears for his first Yankees assignment against an American League East opponent.
"I think Gary was a huge help in this situation, knowing the Orioles really well," Cole said. "Our communication was flowing well and I thought that we were able to keep a steady mix to stay one step ahead of them. I leaned a lot on Gary's familiarity and we executed a lot of pitches, so we were in a good spot."
It was the Yankees' 17th consecutive win over the Orioles (since April 4, 2019), the third-longest such string against a single opponent in franchise history, and the Yanks' franchise-record 16th consecutive win at Camden Yards (since July 11, 2018).
For Cole, it marked his 18th consecutive regular-season victory (since May 27, 2019) with a 1.87 ERA over that span.
"For starting pitchers, it's tough sometimes to be wired tight and intense and everything," manager Aaron Boone said. "He does a really good job of striking that balance of intensity, but really understanding what he wants to do. He's meticulous in his game plan and he expects to go out and execute."
New York knocked O's starter Asher Wojciechowski for five runs (four earned) and four hits over five innings. LeMahieu led off the game by homering off the right-field foul pole and Mike Ford added a sacrifice fly later in that frame, taking advantage of a pair of catcher interference errors charged to Pedro Severino.
"I've been seeing DJ do that for quite a while now," Judge said. "He's always been the table setter for us, always the one that kind of gets us going. That's DJ; that's what he does. It's good to have him back leading off for us, especially when you've got Cole pitching."
Judge and Hicks homered in the third, with Judge launching a moonshot to left field and Hicks mashing a two-run blast down the right-field line. The Bombers pulled away with another pair of runs in the sixth, with LeMahieu and Judge stroking singles to knock in runs. LeMahieu finished the evening 4-for-5, a triple shy of the cycle.
"I'm just getting a lot of swings in," LeMahieu said. "I'm feeling really good. I had a good swing my first at-bat and just kept it rolling."
Cole fatigued in the seventh, completing his outing by surrendering three consecutive extra-base hits, including Dwight Smith Jr.'s two-run homer.
"I was pleased with the outing," Cole said. "It just didn't end on a high note."
The Yanks added two runs in the ninth against Cody Carroll, one scoring on a wild pitch and another on a Giancarlo Stanton run-scoring hit. Right-hander Brooks Kriske made his Major League debut to record the final three outs, sealing the victory for Cole, who said that he is still finding his routine in a season that has been anything but normal.
"I've had to go with the flow a lot, and hopefully I get a little better with my surroundings," Cole said. "I've got a lot of good support around me from the coaching staff to Gary, so I just try not to overthink it. If I've got to fly by the seat of my pants a little bit, so be it."