Following a week in which Cole’s recently reduced spin rate became a hot leaguewide talking point, Cole seemed to be amped up for his first-inning showdown against Josh Donaldson, touching 100 mph in an at-bat that resulted in a strikeout. Cole fanned the 2015 American League MVP again two innings later.
“I just tried to approach it like I do every other game, try to have a Game 7 mentality,” Cole said. “I keep my blinders on, stay focused on the things I can control, try to bring out the best delivery I can and have a good game plan.”
Navigating six strong innings, Cole pitched around a pair of solo homers without a walk as he cruised to his seventh victory. The spin rate on his four-seam fastball, down to an average of 2,436 RPM in his previous start against the Rays, ticked slightly higher to 2,493 -- more in line with his 2019-20 norm of 2,534.
“The one thing I know is, he’s an amazing pitcher and a tremendous competitor,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “When all of this dust settles, wherever this storyline goes, that ain’t changing. His effort, with all the distractions going on around him, he went out there and showed you who he was.”
Judge and Stanton homered in the same game for the 10th time, including the postseason, with the Yankees improving to 10-0 in those contests. Judge’s first-inning blast put New York on the board as the Yanks struck early and often against Randy Dobnak, who was battered for eight runs and 11 hits over 4 2/3 innings.
Brett Gardner doubled home a run in the second inning before Stanton launched a mammoth 423-foot, three-run blast to center field in the third inning. Stanton went deep again in the fifth, a two-run shot, as he notched the 34th multihomer game of his career. Miguel Andújar added a homer, his fifth in eight games.
“It was definitely good to get this win,” Stanton said. “I think [Cole] responded great tonight, the way he performed. We needed every last bit of the runs we got. It was great, and we’ll go for the sweep tomorrow.”
As baseball continues to discuss a likely crackdown on the use of substances that aid pitchers’ grip, Donaldson wondered aloud earlier this week if it could be coincidence that Cole’s spin rate dropped in his last start.
Cole attributed the change to a mechanical flaw, calling Donaldson’s comment “low-hanging fruit.” On Tuesday, Cole had paused when directly asked if he had ever used a product called Spider Tack, which was formulated to assist athletes in strongman competitions.
“I hesitated on the specificity of the question because I just don’t think it’s the forum to discuss those kinds of things,” Cole said after Wednesday’s game. “There’s an appropriate time for players to discuss those things, and we’ll keep it to that forum.”
Cole retired Donaldson three times; Donaldson flied out to right field in the sixth inning.
Judge indicated that he believes the focus on Cole is unwarranted.
“I really don’t like it. I feel like 95% of the guys I’ve faced in the league have something going on,” Judge said. “It’s kind of one of those rules that I feel like hasn’t really been enforced or defined. We’ve all got a job to do; Cole’s got a job to do. Me as a hitter, I’ve got to step in the box no matter what’s going on or what people are using.”
Hitting on 17
After being limited to two runs or fewer in eight of their previous 13 games entering the series at Target Field, the Yankees have scored 17 runs through the first two games of the series. Since 2002, the Yanks are 105-37 against the Twins, including a 16-2 record in the postseason.
“We’ve still got a long way to go,” Boone said. “It’s really good to see these guys working hard, preparing and getting some good results.”
Handed a 9-2 lead in the ninth inning, right-hander Brooks Kriske allowed four runs. Wednesday thus marked the first time this season that the Yankees have won a game in which they have allowed five runs or more.
“It was a big game for us, especially the past couple of games, getting swept at home by the Red Sox,” Judge said. “Especially when Cole’s on the mound, he brings the intensity and he brings focus. He gets us fired up.”