Ice cold Cole breaks Yanks record for K's in Opening Day game

March 30th, 2023

NEW YORK – Listening to Yankees right-hander Gerrit Cole after a 5-0 victory over the Giants on Thursday afternoon, it might have seemed like his outing was nothing special.

But Cole was underselling it. He dealt all day, pitching six shutout innings and striking out 11 batters. The K total marked the most by a Yankees pitcher on Opening Day in franchise history, surpassing Tim Leary’s previous record of nine strikeouts set in 1991. Cole – who said he was experiencing some signs of fatigue by the end of his 95-pitch outing – didn’t know about the record until Steve Donahue, the Yankees’ director of medical services, gave him the news.

“He seems to have great recollections for things like this,” Cole said about Donahue.

Cole was also the first Yankees starter to throw at least six scoreless innings on Opening Day since Roger Clemens in 2003. The right-handed ace did it all under frigid conditions with a gametime temperature of 39 degrees.

“It was cold. It was tough to feel the hand. I didn’t think my command was great all day. I did make some good pitches in some good situations,” Cole said. “I thought that [catcher Jose Trevino] was using what we had really well and he was locked in, giving us the most margin for error in the pitches that he was calling.”

The way the game started, it looked like Cole might be in for a long day, though he turned that around about as quickly as a pitcher possibly can. After walking the first hitter – LaMonte Wade Jr. – he faced, Cole struck out the side and then did the same in the second inning. He faced 22 batters and allowed three hits with two walks.

“After the first batter, I would have told you I would have been happy to get through five innings,” Cole said. “I didn’t quite know how it was going to shake out with the way I started the game. Strikeouts or no strikeouts, I just need to keep the team in the ballgame and hold the lead. It’s a really special moment, but it wasn’t my focus. I was glad I was able to get the job done regardless.”

The Giants were able to get Cole’s pitch count up to 95, though it didn’t pay off in the box score.

“He’s one of the best pitchers in the game,” Giants manager Gabe Kapler said. “I think our approach was as good as it could have been. We drove his pitch count up. We just weren’t able to finish those counts with line-drive hits.

“I think for me, personally, this is very much a story of two excellent starts. A couple of home runs for them. We weren’t able to get the ball in the air and hit those home runs. That’s why they came out on the winning end of this."

Cole started to relax once teammate Aaron Judge gave him a 1-0 lead with a home run in the first inning off Giants right-hander Logan Webb. Cole called the home run by Judge a tone-setter for him and the team.

“[Judge] came up and woke everybody up and showed us that he was here to play,” Cole said. “It was a cool moment for him and it was just an inspiring moment for me and I just took it in stride.”