Gerrit Cole’s 10-strikeout shutout vs. Twins creates Cy Young Buzz; Boone foresees him in Cooperstown

Gerrit Cole of the Yankees is seen celebrating after a pitching a shutout against the Twins on April 16, 2023, at Yankee Stadium.

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Full control over his pitches empowers Gerrit Cole to dominate his opponents. The Yankees’ best pitcher showcased this while keeping up his strong start to the season on Sunday. He shut out the Twins and struck out 10 batters in a 2-0 win in The Bronx.

For nine scoreless innings, the Yankees’ best starter seemed to have everything under control. His fastball reached 99 miles per hour, and he could throw it almost anywhere he wanted. The Twins didn’t get their first hit until the fifth inning, and they only had two hits in the whole game. Gerrit Cole’s last move was to throw a fastball over the middle and chest-high at Minnesota star Carlos Correa. The ball went to deep right-center and into Oswaldo Cabrera‘s glove and Gerrit Cole, who looked so calm on the mound, could finally go home and relax.

The Gerrit Cole magic

Gerrit Cole only let two innocuous singles and a walk. He got 27 outs on 109 pitches for his fourth complete-game shutout in his career.

“It’s just old school,” Cole said. “But we had our work cut out for us today. We were facing a great team and a great pitcher [Pablo Lopez], so just more satisfied with the win.”

Gerrit Cole shut down a Twins lineup that had just scored 11 runs three days before. This helped the Yankees level the series at 2-2 and avoid their first series loss of the season. He did this with a sharp fastball that he could throw almost anywhere and it accounted for seven of his nine strikeouts. Gerrit Cole also used a good curveball, slider, and changeup as he tormented the Minnesota lineup.

“When he’s able to do that, throw the fastball in all locations, it definitely opens up a lot of stuff,” catcher Jose Trevino said.

Gerrit Cole has only given up three runs in 28 ¹/₃ innings — 0.95 ERA — in his first four starts. He has also struck out 32 batters. This makes him the first Yankees pitcher to have a sub-1.00 ERA and at least 30 strikeouts in his first four starts of a season since 1913 when the earned run became an official stat.

“That’s a big-time performance right there,” manager Aaron Boone said. “A special pitcher and he’s just in a really locked-in, focused place.”

At spring training, the Yankees were pleased by Gerrit Cole’s physical and mental state, as he felt more relaxed in his first totally normal camp with the club. The positive sentiments have carried over into the first month of the regular season, with the Yankees ace looking every bit the $324 million pitcher.

Gerrit Cole equaled Ron Guidry after having his 23rd double-digit strikeout in pinstripes. He credited his better command for his “a little more confidence.” After allowing a couple of fly balls to the warning track in right field on Sunday — and seeming glad that neither made it to the short porch — Gerrit Cole has not yet allowed a home run this season after allowing an AL-high 33 last year.

“Whatever happens out there — and look, a lot of things obviously went right today, so there wasn’t a lot of adversity — but he’s just handling situation after situation so well,” Boone said. “His fastball command and the fact that he’s pressuring it in a lot of different places in the strike zone has been huge for him.”

The Yankees used the bullpen in the eighth inning, but Gerrit Cole came back for the ninth after throwing 98 pitches. Clay Holmes was ready to pitch if Cole couldn’t retire Carlos Correa, who was hitting third in the inning, but his flyout ended the game.

Gerrit Cole, who didn’t allow a hit until the fifth inning with two outs, didn’t need much support from the Yankees offense to win the game. But it was DJ LeMahieu, who drove in Aaron Judge for the 1-0 lead in the third inning. He also homered in the sixth.

Gerrit Cole was doing so well against the Twins that this was all he needed to get to 4-0 on the season for the team.

“He was great,” LeMahieu said. “About as good as you can pitch. He was impressive and I’m glad he could finish it off there for the ‘CG.’ ”

Gerrit Cole of the New York Yankees.

Gerrit Cole’s latest dominance stirs up Cy Young talks

Cy Young races aren’t decided in April but some early buzz could come from a strong start. That’s what happened after Gerrit Cole’s fourth start and win came after he shut out the Twins on Sunday.

Gerrit Cole was so powerful that it only took 127 minutes for him to finish things off against Minnesota. This showing was 53 minutes shorter than his last complete game, which was on July 10 in Houston.

The Yankees ace looks like the same pitcher he was in 2019 when he went 20-5 and finished second in the AL Cy Young race, 12 points behind his former teammate Justin Verlander. This earned him a $324 million contract from the Yankees.

Last year, Gerrit Cole came in ninth place in the voting after having the most strikeouts in the majors with 257. But he also gave up the most home runs in the American League with 33. This included five home runs in a game in Minnesota, which was a stark contrast to the perfect game he pitched until the seventh inning against Detroit and the no-hitter he tried to throw against Tampa Bay that season.

Another difference was that he never went more than three starts without giving up a home run, and eight of those home runs came in his nine games with 10 or more strikeouts.

“Maybe a bit of conviction,” Gerrit Cole said when he was asked how he has not yet allowed a home run this year. “Solid game plan in terms of when we want to go to areas and when we feel strongly about going to those areas.”

This year, Gerrit Cole is doing well in some of these advanced metrics. For example, he is allowing 9.5 percent of fly balls, which is down by 28.6 percent compared to the last year. And then there was the fastball, which he threw 163 times and against which he gave up six hits in 36 at-bats (.167).

Gerrit Cole could be a part of the conversation about who are the best pitchers in baseball right now. It’s one thing to be the best, but in an era when most runs are scored on home runs, it’s notable to not give up a home run for four straight starts. Gerrit Cole did this for five straight starts from April 6 to April 30, 2021, but he didn’t do it in 2019 when he gave up 24 home runs.

Cole is a Cooperstown guy

Manager Aaron Boone was so impressed by Gerrit Cole’s performance that he talked about Cooperstown and the Cy Young Awards in his postgame comments.

Gerrit Cole has established himself as one of baseball’s best pitchers. A five-time All-Star, he had five seasons with 200+ strikeouts and four seasons with an ERA under 3.00. Boone feels his ace is underappreciated, with Boone predicting Cole would one day be considered one of the game’s legends.

“I think it’s fair to throw him in that conversation, absolutely,” Boone said. “And I think he always is, but I do think even going into this year, I think he’s probably been on some level underrated and underappreciated. He’s great. He’s a great pitcher that I believe is going to end up in Cooperstown one day.”

For those who are already in Cooperstown or have previously dominated, consider Bob Gibson, who opened his 1968 season with 19 strikeouts, two home runs, and 1.97 ERA in four games, or Dwight Gooden, who notched up 1.50 ERA and 26 strikeouts in first four games in 1985.

In his first four starts of the 2019 season, Gerrit Cole had a 3.24 ERA, 36 strikeouts, and lost two of his first three decisions before winning 19 of his last 22.

Between Cole, Max Scherzer, and Justin Verlander, the pitching staff in New York have a combined 540 wins and 8,367 strikeouts. Gerrit Cole is the unofficial winner of the incredibly early race amongst the three most remarkable players.

On Sunday, Gerrit Cole was as excellent as he’s ever been in a Yankees jersey. He pounded the strike zone all day, striking out 10 Twins while walking just one, as he explained afterward. He just allowed two hits while routinely painting the corners with his high-90s fastball.

“Just his command of everything. He’s in rhythm with the clock. Whatever happens out there … he’s just handling situation after situation so well,” Boone said about Cole’s dazzling start. “His fastball command and the fact that he’s pressuring it in a lot of different places in the strike zone has been huge for him. His secondary stuff I thought all played an important role, all of them. But that’s a big-time performance right there. He’s a special pitcher and he’s in a really locked-in, focused place. … That was really special.”

The only thing left for Gerrit Cole to do as an individual is to win the Cy Young Award. He has been in the top five in Cy Young voting five times, including runner-up finishes in 2019 and 2021. If you believe Boone, Cole will have a Cy Young – or multiple Cy Youngs – in his trophy cabinet before the season is out.

“He’s gonna get one. Maybe more,” Boone said. “He’s going to be in that conversation every year and has been now for a number of years. He’s in a great place right now, and look forward to seeing him go back out there in a few days.”

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