Gerrit Cole’s excellent command over fastball assures Yankees second series win

Yankees ace Gerrit Cole is pitching against the Phillies at Yankee Stadium, April 5, 2023.

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Gerrit Cole took the mound for his second straight start in less-than-ideal weather and gave the Yankees exactly what they wanted. He was happy to go head-to-head with another great player, Aaron Nola of the Phillies on Wednesday. Gerrit Cole’s hot start to the season kept going strong as he struck out eight batters as the Yankees beat the Phillies, 4-2, at Yankee Stadium.

In his last game, Gerrit Cole struck out 11 Giants, which was a franchise record for Opening Day. In the latest game, Cole wrote a successful sequel. The right-hander gave up three hits over 6 1/3 innings and said he was in “a good spot to execute pitches” on a cold and wet afternoon.

Gerrit Cole’s second start with a difference

In his second start of the year, Gerrit Cole once again proved his worth. Unlike his previous Opening Day start, he didn’t dominate the Phillies’ bats. He had to fight through a few at-bats and gave up three walks, the last of which was because he went over the pitch limit.

The Yankees ace only gave up three hits, struck out eight batters, and kept the opponents scoreless for six innings before leaving the game with one out and a runner on in the seventh. Even though that run scored, Gerrit Cole still won his second game.

In Wednesday’s win in The Bronx, Gerrit Cole did this by giving up only one run over 6 1/3 innings and walking Nick Castellanos at the end of the game because of a pitch-clock violation. It was one of the only bad things to happen to the right-hander so far in 2023. The Yankees ended their first homestand with four wins out of six games.

Cole builds a strong foundation

“We’re in good shape,’’ Cole said. “We have to keep laying the foundation.”

Gerrit Cole has a 0.73 ERA through the first 12 1/3 of the season. He has 13.86 strikeouts per nine innings. Last year, the Yankees ace gave up the most home runs in the American League with 33. Only Whitey Ford (1955) and Orlando “El Duque” Hernández (1999) — two other Yankees — have thrown at least six innings with three hits or less in their first two starts.

When asked what Gerrit Cole did well on Wednesday, Aaron Boone, his manager, said:

“He walks out there with a lot of equipment. I feel like he’s been in a good spot since Day 1 of Spring Training, and he’s carried it right into the season. He had a little bit of everything going today. I thought his fastball was really good, command-wise. He was sharp, and he’s throwing the ball real well.”

In his first two starts last year, Gerrit Cole had a high ERA with three home runs. He went on to give up 33 home runs, which was a career-high for him.

Cole shows excellent fastball control

So far this season, he’s been very good at controlling his fastball, which has given Gerrit Cole the power to set the count, which he did well on Wednesday.

“He’s Gerrit Cole. His fastball is electric,” said infielder Bryson Stott, who went 2-for-4 in Philadelphia’s defeat. “He just made better pitches than we took swings.”

Gerrit Cole’s only mistake on Wednesday was that he didn’t follow the pitch timer rules. After getting Edmundo Sosa out with a strikeout to start the seventh inning, he pointed to the Yankees’ bench and asked Boone for one more batter.

Boone let his best pitcher keep going, and Gerrit Cole worked the count all the way through against Nick Castellanos. Castellanos walked because Cole and catcher Trevino couldn’t decide on a pitch before the timer ran out.

The pitcher later told, “We both forgot about the timer.”

Gerrit Cole pitched around Bryson Stott’s double with two outs and got Trea Turner out at first to end the top of the third. With two outs in the fourth inning, Darick Hall hit a ball off the wall in right and tried to make it into a double. Franchy Cordero got to it quickly, and Anthony Volpe made a great catch and tag on the lunging Hall.

Gerrit Cole got into trouble when, with two outs in the top of the fifth, he walked two straight batters. He also got Cristian Pache to pop out to Jose Trevino in foul territory after pitching coach Matt Blake stopped by.

Gerrit Cole left the game with one out and Castellanos on base after walking him. The last ball was a pitch-clock violation because he and Trevino couldn’t decide on a pitch fast enough.

“We’ve just got to call a mound visit there,’’ Cole said. “It was my first [violation]. Poorly timed. It slipped both of our minds.”

After allowing a single to Stott, Jonathan Loaisiga blasted Alec Bohn with the next pitch to load the bases. Clay Holmes earned the save with a flawless ninth inning.

The Yankees finished their homestand with four victories in six games, scoring first in five of them. They will now get a day off on Thursday as a result of the rainout in the Orioles’ home opener, which has been rescheduled for Friday afternoon in Baltimore.

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