Yankees Ace in the Cole

AP Photo/John Minchillo

Gerrit Cole was masterful Sunday afternoon in the Bronx, and is pitching like the ace he was supposed to be when he joined the Yankees in 2020. Cole went the distance on a two hitter for his fourth career shutout as the Yankees blanked the Twins, 2-0. The right hander was consistent with the four-seamer, and was in total command as he walked one and struck out ten.

It was a crisp, 2 hour, 7 minute mastery of the pitch clock. After dropping the first two games, the Yankees earned a split of their four-game series with the improved Twins. Cole is now 4-0 with a sparkling 0.95 ERA. 

He threw 109 pitches, hit the corners, and has not thrown a home run ball. A significant number after he led the league with 33 long balls given up last season. The difference? A four-seamer that locates and perhaps a pitch clock working to his benefit.

Regardless, we are seeing a complete pitcher. Too early to say AL Cy Young Award, but at this pace it’s  no contest. Remember, it’s a long season and things can quickly change.

You’re giving yourself a chance to have success when you’re executing so many pitches,” he said.

He is locked in. Cole would admit to getting the ball tomorrow if presented the opportunity. His consistency had a potent Twins lineup looking for an opportunity, but Cole never lost his composure. A difference from the past two years when the home run ball hurt him in the middle and late innings.

I think he’s probably been on some level underrated, unappreciated,” said manager Aaron Boone. “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”

Yet the stigma has been that home run ball. Last season, they said, Cole had no command. He could not make adjustments, was attempting to correct the flaws and showed his frustration.

That’s as good as you can pitch,” said DJ LeMahieu. “I feel like we didn’t need a whole lot.”

Cole was in command, the Yankees had enough runs to support this complete game. LeMahieu provided the support with a run scoring single in the third inning and a solo home run in the sixth.

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

Cole would not want to leave the mound as he wanted to finish what he started. His outing totaled 103 pitches, 73 for strikes, 29 batters faced, 10 ground ball outs. Five Yankees made putouts in the outfield.

His strikeout in the fourth inning put him past Hall of Famer Whitey Ford (1,956,) placing him 97th on the all-time list. Carlos Correa, who hurt the Yankees in the first two games of the series with opposite field home runs, never had a chance as he was 0 for 4. 

The entire Twins lineup never got an opportunity to stage a rally. Cole was that good, which presents a question as to why has Gerrit Cole been so dominant, not that there were any doubts about what we saw Sunday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.

I asked a veteran and longtime scout, why has Cole been so dominant?

His secondary pitches revolved around that fastball,” he said. “Cole is using more than that fastball as the out pitch. Cole has always been good at adjusting with his pitch selection. Right now they can’t get around his fastball.”

Said Boone, ”Add it all up and I feel like he’s in such a good place. I feel like how he’s been using the fastball right now I think is just him continuing to evolve and grow as a great pitcher.”

Cole is 5-0 career wise against the Twins. Recall last June when they hit five home runs off him at Target Field, justifying those lingering doubts about the tendency of losing control of that fastball.

Sunday, it was the other way around. The Twins could not find the answer for Cole’s nasty stuff (to borrow the name of Nestor Cortes, another good thrower in the Yankees pitching rotation).

All good for the Yankees because they got the complete Gerrit Cole, not that he ever left. But Sunday he was no longer missing.

Rich Mancuso: Twitter @Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso

About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich Mancuso is a regular contributor at NY Sports Day, covering countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and BoxingInsider.com, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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