ARLINGTON -- After stringing together 25 2/3 scoreless innings, Yankees ace Gerrit Cole saw his masterful streak slip out of his grasp Thursday -- quite literally, as he couldn’t hang onto the relay on a longshot double-play attempt that led to the Rangers’ first run. But Cole skittered out of his only unlucky inning with the lead intact, and the Yankees remained unbeaten with him on the mound this season with a 4-2 win.
The sixth inning for the Rangers was a compendium of lightly struck but ideally placed ground balls, and Cole found himself with a bases-loaded, no-outs situation after the first two hitters reached on singles up the middle and the third walked. The only runs Cole surrendered came on a fielder’s choice ground ball -- the double play that got away -- and an infield single on a chopper to third.
“The sixth inning was tough -- [we were] really executing pretty much every pitch that we wanted to, and obviously, the Rangers are tough, a first-place team, and being able to put the ball in play was advantageous for them,” Cole said. “They found some holes. It was a grind.”
Jonah Heim’s one-out grounder to first could have ended another blank frame for Cole, had the Yankees been able to execute a difficult 3-6-1 double play with the bases loaded.
Cole gloved the throw from shortstop Anthony Volpe but dropped it as he tried to simultaneously make the catch and step on first. That allowed a run to score; another later came home on an infield grounder by Ezequiel Duran.
“I need to make that play, I’m capable of making that play,” Cole said of the double-play attempt. “Obviously, it was pretty tough. But I felt really good about continuing to make our pitches and pitching into the type of contact that we wanted to get, and eventually it went our way, and we got out of there with the lead.”
It could have been worse, especially if Cole hadn’t struck out Rangers cleanup man Adolis García with the bases loaded and no outs. Cole started García off with a low changeup that was fouled off, then got strikes two and three swinging at high heat.
“The pitches are piling up [and] obviously I’m getting gassed, so I was stoked that we were able to continue to make pitches and remain unpredictable. … It’s really tough to stay locked in, but it’s a lot easier when [catcher Jose Trevino] is picking the pitches.”
Cole struck out eight hitters -- giving him 44 strikeouts in 40 2/3 innings. He improved to 5-0 with a 1.11 ERA and an early-season line full of Cy Young Award-contender numbers. The Yankees are 6-0 in his starts this year. Opponents are hitting .169 off Cole this season.
“It comes from my teammates, it comes from our preparation, and it comes from just being in a good spot to execute a lot of pitches,” Cole said. “We’ve just played good baseball more often than not, and it’s something you feed off of as a pitcher.”