Friend’s support catapults Gerrit Cole to Cy Young level again

Yankees ace Gerrit Cole is in action against the Rays in Tampa on Aug 25, 2023.
NYY
John Allen
Saturday August 26, 2023

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On Wednesday, Gerrit Cole overcame his earlier setback positioning him as a credible choice for Cy Young. He made sure to put his last outing at Tropicana Field firmly behind him and also improve upon his forgettable debacle vs. the Red Sox. Gerrit Cole admitted that the much-needed help came from a friend.

The last time the Yankees ace took to the mound against the Rays was on May 7. What initially promised to be a pitching masterpiece quickly transformed into a heartbreaking debacle. Then, the Yankees crashed 8-7 to the Rays after blowing away a 6-0 lead. However, on Wednesday, Gerrit Cole’s brilliance reversed that past mistake. From the early onset of the game, he dominated breezing through the opposition like a maestro. His masterpiece forced the Rays to submit to the Yankees 6-2.

This also marked a big turnaround for Gerrit Cole on another front. Boasting an AL-best ERA of 2.95 and having logged the most innings pitched at 168, he swiftly recovered from a challenging performance against the Red Sox in his previous outing. This time, he showcased his resilience by conceding just two runs, one of which was unearned, during an impressive span of seven and two-thirds innings against Tampa Bay.

Gerrit Cole revealed that he had recently implemented mechanical changes, aided by guidance from a friend who possesses exceptional baseball knowledge, hinting that this individual might eventually enter the Hall of Fame (strongly suggested to be Justin Verlander). He also mentioned receiving assistance from pitching coach Matt Blake and Yankees’ director of pitching, Sam Briend.

“Some help from a friend of mine who pointed me in the right direction,” Cole added. “He’s probably going to be in the Hall of Fame one day.”

The Yankees’ starting pitcher elaborated that the modifications were geared toward rectifying inconsistencies in his ball delivery, with a specific focus on generating more optimal spin. Gerrit Cole acknowledged that despite not always seeing instant outcomes, the adjustments had produced favorable results, characterizing it as a valuable improvement.

Gerrit Cole admitted that he had been experiencing some inconsistency while attempting to navigate the ball. He explained that he had been working on refining his delivery to enhance the potential for generating purer spin on the ball. The Yankees’ starter noted his diligent efforts over the past week, acknowledging that immediate outcomes aren’t always guaranteed. Nevertheless, he affirmed that the outcomes of his work were unmistakably positive, viewing the adjustments he made as effective and beneficial.

Gerrit Cole’s big day in Tampa

On May 7, Gerrit Cole allowed the Rays to nullify the Yankees commanding 6-0 lead after he had faltered in the fifth and sixth innings. This loss was among the Yankees‘ most disheartening experiences in a season that has been marred by several such instances. Nonetheless, the starter has consistently been a positive aspect for the struggling Yankees. During his return to The Trop on a Friday, he demonstrated his unwavering excellence.

In the series opener, the right-handed pitcher showcased his prowess by lasting 7.2 innings on the mound. He allowed only four hits, resulting in two earned runs. Impressively, he issued no walks and recorded 11 strikeouts, all while delivering 100 pitches before departing to applause from the road crowd. With this performance, Gerrit Cole effectively lowered his earned run average (ERA) to 2.95. Notably, his achievement further solidified his position as a top contender for the AL Cy Young Award, and he openly acknowledges his focus on attaining this prestigious accolade.

Gerrit Cole expressed that winning the award would be truly remarkable. He considered it a privilege to win it as a Yankees player and a testament to the dedication displayed by everyone involved, including catchers, the pitching staff, coaches, and all those who supported and contributed to his success.

The Yankees have been without a Cy Young Award recipient since Roger Clemens achieved the honor in 2001. As the primary contenders against Gerrit Cole, Astros’ Framber Valdez, and Blue Jays’ Kevin Gausman, emerge on the horizon, the 32-year-old pitcher is vying to secure his inaugural Cy Young Award, a pursuit that follows numerous near misses. Gerrit Cole came in second place for the AL Cy Young award in both 2019 and 2021, while also notching three other top-five finishes in Cy Young voting throughout his career.

Gerrit Cole is the Yankees workhorse

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Gerrit Cole asserts that his focus is confined to the mere five days between each of his pitching assignments. He maintains that this approach is necessary to navigate the demands of a major league season.

While Gerrit Cole concentrates on delivering his best performances, the rest of us cannot help but contemplate the potential accolades that lie ahead. With the conclusion of one of his most impressive seasons, the Yankees’ ace has significantly bolstered his prospects for clinching the American League Cy Young Award. This was evident in the Yankees’ 6-2 triumph over the Rays on Friday at Tropicana Field.

Despite his love for the award, Gerrit Cole remains steadfast in ensuring his focus remains undivided. He said that the immediate focus needs to shift toward preparing for the upcoming game against Detroit next week.

“I don’t want to get distracted,” he said. “It’s not something I’ve ever thought about through my whole career, so I’m just sticking with what I’ve done in the past. But I’ve got to shower this off and get ready for Detroit next week. That’s the most important thing. That’s all I know how to do.”

Yankees’ manager Aaron Boone commended Gerrit Cole’s performance, suggesting that this recent showing might rank among his best, largely attributing this to the exceptional quality of his fastball. Regarding Cole’s chances for the Cy Young award, Boone responded, “He’s having that kind of season.”

Against the Rays, Gerrit Cole’s proficiency held true as he limited the opposition to two runs or fewer, marking the 20th instance of such an accomplishment this season — a feat that stands as the highest across all of Major League Baseball. As the game progressed, with two outs in the eighth inning, Jonathan Loaisiga took over from Cole. However, an unearned run that resulted from an inherited runner crossed the plate, which was charged to Cole’s record and subsequently extended the score to 6-2.

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Little could be found to disturb the dominance of Cole during this particular evening, as he effectively silenced a Rays squad that now trails the AL East-leading Orioles by a margin of three games. In 2019, during their time together with the Astros, Gerrit Cole came in as a close runner-up to Verlander in the AL Cy Young Award race. Although he recognizes the immense significance of securing this accolade for the first time in his illustrious career, he emphasizes that it doesn’t occupy a central place in his priorities.

The Yankees ace expressed a desire to avoid getting sidetracked, emphasizing that the topic in question had never crossed his mind during his entire career. Consequently, he intended to adhere to his established approach and continue following the methods that had served him well in the past.

According to Yankees manager Aaron Boone, Friday’s display on the mound could easily be regarded as one of Cole’s most comprehensive performances throughout the year. After making the decision to replace Cole with two outs in the eighth inning, Boone shared his assessment directly with Cole, expressing, “That was truly impressive, one of the finest I’ve witnessed.”

Boone pointed out that while there’s still a significant portion of the season remaining, the current moment finds the individual in the midst of an exceptional and noteworthy campaign.

LeMahieu’ support

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Gerrit Cole received significant support from DJ LeMahieu, who delivered solo home runs in both the fifth and eighth innings, marking his first game with multiple home runs since May 7, 2021, when facing Washington. LeMahieu recognized a heightened sense of concentration among the Yankees’ infield when they play behind Gerrit Cole, acknowledging the importance of the ace’s pursuit of a significant accomplishment.

LeMahieu’s initial home run against Eflin in the fifth inning granted the Yankees a 1-0 advantage. His subsequent home run against sidearmer Trevor Kelley in the eighth inning extended the lead to 6-1. This elevated his total to 11 home runs for the season, three of which were achieved this week.

After grappling with a challenging first half of the season, LeMahieu has displayed remarkable improvement, boasting a 35-for-118 (.297) record with a .856 OPS in his past 35 games. He attributed this resurgence at the plate to the guidance of the new hitting coach, Sean Casey, a former player with a .302 batting average over his 12-year tenure in the major leagues.

LeMahieu shared that he had established a strong connection with the new hitting coach. Being a two-time batting champion himself, he highlighted the positive and constructive energy that they both share. LeMahieu described the person as someone with a positive disposition and expressed his enjoyment in discussing hitting with them. Given the individual’s own prowess as a skilled hitter, LeMahieu finds value in engaging in conversations about the game and considers it beneficial for his own insights and growth.

Boone expressed his satisfaction upon observing LeMahieu’s performance, particularly considering the positive turnaround in his hitting following the All-Star break, subsequent to encountering difficulties in the first half of the season. Boone attributed this improvement to the slight adjustments LeMahieu made in his load, contributing to a greater degree of energy in his swing. This, in turn, resulted in a noticeable increase in the speed of his swing. Boone highlighted how LeMahieu effectively connected with the ball, both by driving it solidly up the middle against Eflin and capitalizing on an opportune pitch to hit a home run. He also emphasized LeMahieu’s ability to hit a home run off a side-armer, showcasing a diverse skillset. Boone concluded by expressing his contentment in witnessing LeMahieu’s high-quality at-bats during the game.

Guided by DJ LeMahieu’s two home runs and Gerrit Cole’s stellar performance, which effectively rekindled his quest for the American League Cy Young Award, the Yankees initiated a substantial three-city, 10-game expedition with a decisive 6-2 victory over the Rays. A crowd of 22,679 at Tropicana Field bore witness to this triumph.

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