New York Yankees: Gerrit Cole wasn’t at his best, but he delivered anyway

Andres Chavez
New York Yankees, Gerrit Cole
USA Today

In a game that was closer than it appears, at least until Giancarlo Stanton broke it open with a grand slam, the New York Yankees defeated the pesky Tampa Bay Rays 9-3 in Game One of the American League Division Series at Petco Park, in San Diego.

The Yankees’ ace, Gerrit Cole, took the victory by pitching six innings and allowing three earned runs, with a couple of walks and eight strikeouts. He clearly wasn’t at his best, allowing hard contact all night long (especially in the first half of his start) and two round-trippers, one to Randy Arozarena and another one to his nemesis, Ji-Man Choi.

Yet, even when his command was a little off, he managed to give the New York Yankees’ offense an opportunity to win the game, which is what ended up happening after the Bronx Bombers hit four homers on the night.

“Ultimately, you want to be playing your best baseball when it’s most important,” Cole said to Bryan Hoch of “That’s how you get to the ultimate prize. I’m thankful to be a part of the organization, and thankful for the opportunity to lead the charge into the postseason.”

The victory is extremely important for the Yankees, who dropped eight out of ten games against the Rays in the regular season.

“It’s one game, and we’ve got to win three,” manager Aaron Boone said. “We know they’re a great team and a great opponent, and we know we’ve got to play our best to beat them.”

The Yankees’ ace got praise from Cash

Rays manager Kevin Cash recognized Cole’s greatness after the start. “It seemed like as the game went on, he got a little nastier,” he said. “It’s amazing how he’s able to dial up his fastball when he needs it, and [Cole] did that. Ji-Man with the big home run, but they answered back.”

“This is a tough lineup to navigate, because they’ve got some guys who are swinging a hot bat right now,” said catcher Kyle Higashioka. “We just tried to do our best to change speeds, use the whole plate, keep them off balance. Basically, we just pitched to Gerrit’s strengths.”

At one point, with men in scoring position for the Rays, Cole and Higashioka got crossed in their communication and the backstop was expecting a high fastball, and the hurler delivered a hard-breaking curveball.

“I may be biased, but the most important play from Kyle was when I crossed him up,” Cole said. “That goes to the backstop and it could be a totally different ballgame.”

A couple of batters later, and Cole threw two darts to get the strikeout swinging against Manny Margot to end the threat in the fifth. It was a huge moment for the Yankees.

“Big stage, big moment,” Cole said. “I executed perfectly. I’m glad, because I really got myself into a bit of a mess there.”