Gerrit Cole’s stellar outing enough to shut down ‘list’ makers

Gerrit Cole of the Yankees is pitching against the Guardians in Cleveland on April 11, 2023.

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The Yankees notched up a big win against the Guardians on Tuesday thanks to an excellent performance by Gerrit Cole. He gave up two runs on five hits and two walks over seven innings while securing three outs. This not only thwarted the Guardians but also stopped those who consistently published the lists of MLB best starters during the offseason while keeping Gerrit Cole out of the top 10.

Gerrit Cole remains defiant, dominant

The Yankees ace didn’t miss many bats during Tuesday’s win, but he still did a good job against Cleveland’s lineup at Progressive Field. Gerrit Cole was especially good after the first inning when he gave up two runs. For the next six innings, he kept the Guardians from scoring, which helped him get his third win of the season without a loss. Gerrit Cole started the 2023 season with a 1.40 ERA, 22 Ks, and 7 walks in 19.1 innings.

Even though Gerrit Cole didn’t have his best stuff that night, he still pitched seven strong innings against the Guardians. He got back on track after Cleveland scored two runs off of him in the first four batters of the game. His knuckle curve helped him do this. In his first two starts, Gerrit Cole only threw the pitch 8% of the time. In his third start, he threw it 23% of the time, and 18% of the time it was a strike.

“I had a good feel for the breaking ball, so I just rolled with what was good,” he said.

According to Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake:

“If you look at his body of work and his ability to stay on the field though, that’s a huge part of being an ace. That’s something he does as well as anyone. If you look at his arsenal, it would suggest he’s probably a top-two or three pitchers and then it’s just a matter of going out and limiting the slug when he can. I think he’s as good of a strikeout pitcher as there is in the game. It really just comes down to avoiding the mistakes when there are runners on base and the ERA getting bloated.”

Gerrit Cole sheds underrated tag

Gerrit Cole has consistently been kept out of the list of top 10 major league starters before the season began. But such ratings failed to bother the Yankees ace, who believed he was not the type to use other people’s opinions as extra fuel to show where he fits in. He then told that opinions fluctuate.

His exclusion didn’t worry Gerrit Cole, but offended his wife Amy, who reminded him what she thought of all those viewpoints.

“My wife is probably more heated about it than me,” Gerrit Cole laughed. “I wouldn’t put too much stock into them though even if I was at the top. I take the same approach if I’m not at the top or on it at all.

“But obviously she thinks I’m the best.”

Gerrit Cole was one of the top pitchers in baseball through his first two outings this season. He’s pitched 12 1/3 innings, getting out 19 batters, and allowed only one run. A pitch clock violation and an error by Jonathan Loaisiga, who was in relief, went against him. Gerrit Cole’s good start this season, which he extended against the Guardians on Tuesday, contrasts sharply with his first two appearances last year, when he tossed 9 2/3 innings, surrendered six runs, and allowed three home runs.

Gerrit Cole got the worst attention all year because of his home runs. He gave up 33 home runs, which was the most in his 10-year career and the most in his league. This offseason, he had to think a lot about this part of his game to figure out what went wrong and what he needs to do to fix it. The Yankees pitching coach said that he thinks Gerrit Cole’s home runs are why some people outside the team didn’t think much of him before this season. Blake said that the way Cole throws pitches can make him more likely to give up damage. He is one of the best strike-throwers and hardest throwers in the league. If a batter hits the ball well and sends it into the air, the ball is more likely to leave the park. Blake also thinks that Gerrit Cole chose pitches that were too predictable at times last season, which led to a lot of home runs.

“I think being more unpredictable with the areas he’s going to and giving himself more room for error was one of the things we talked a lot about this offseason,” Blake said.

Yankees captain and AL MVP Aaron Judge has one of the best views on the field of what Gerrit Cole can do when he plays center field. Judge recently said that he and the Yankees starter had a chat in the dugout about a pitch Gerrit Cole threw to a left-handed batter. While the outfielder suggested a back-foot slider down, the starter went with an outside slider.

“And he paints it nice and easy for strike three,” Judge said. “It’s just like little things like that when you have so much feel for your pitches and such great stuff that you don’t see much of if you’re not in the game.

“If he’s not the best pitcher in the game then he’s up there one or two. He shows up every single year and gets his 30 starts in. Competing against him before he was with us, you see what he does on the field. Getting a chance to see what he does behind the scenes and how much he cares about this game and his teammates is impressive. Then he goes out there and he’s throwing 100 mph with a nasty slider, great curveball, he’s working on his changeup, two-seamer, it’s impressive.”

Cole remains an ace and it is beyond any dispute

Yankees top ace Gerrit Cole is training at Yankee Stadium.
Instagram/ Cole

Blake has been most impressed by Gerrit Cole’s ability to attack with his fastball in his first two starts. Cole mostly threw his fastball in the middle of the zone and on the outside half of the plate last season. So far, he has made more of an effort to use his fastball all over the strike zone. Right-handed batters have been hit most often when he throws up and in on their hands or widen the zone on the outside half of the plate. When facing a left-handed batter, Gerrit Cole has mostly hit the upper part of the plate. He has been able to use his slider and curveball more effectively at the bottom of the zone.

Clarke Schmidt, one of his best friends on the team, said that what makes Gerrit Cole the best pitcher for the Yankees and almost no one else is how well he understands his daily process. He thinks that Cole is one of the most durable pitchers because he sticks to his routine, which is why he is so proud of taking the ball every fifth day. He also thinks that Gerrit Cole, even though he acts like he doesn’t care what people outside of the Yankees think about his skills, really does.

“I think he’s the type of guy who does use that as motivation, I feel like,” Schmidt said. “Even if he says he doesn’t, I feel he does care. He has that edge to him where you know stuff like that will get to him.”

Schmidt highlighted Gerrit Cole’s performance in the postseason last year, specifically in the American League Division Series, in which he shut down Cleveland in Game 1 and rescued the Yankees’ season in his next start. Judge, who is 1-for-6 with two strikeouts against Gerrit Cole in his career, is a happy man today because he doesn’t have to face him anymore.

“If he’s not the best pitcher in the game, you have to show me who is because he’s something special,” Judge said. “I’m glad he’s wearing pinstripes.”

Gerrit Cole stays focused

Gerrit Cole made the Guardians happy for one inning and made them sad for the next six. He didn’t allow Cleveland’s quick start in the first inning to bother him, throwing seven good innings and hitting a three-run homer to lead the New York Yankees to an 11-2 victory on Tuesday night.

The ace starter allowed two runs and three hits in the opening inning before settling in and becoming 5-0 versus Cleveland over the last two seasons. In last year’s AL Division Series, Gerrit Cole defeated the Guardians twice.

“Another in command, in control outing,” said Yankees manager Aaron Boone. “Especially when it didn’t go his way initially.”

The right-hander is 10-2 in 13 career starts against Cleveland, including the playoffs, allowing five hits and striking out three.

Gerrit Cole said that his goal for this season is to have another year in which he makes more than 30 starts, throws more than 200 innings, and makes at least five more starts in October. When it comes to the storylines that surround his game, he says his goal is to “cut through all of the bulls—” and perform as best he can while he’s on the mound.

Five times in his career, Gerrit Cole has come in the top 5 of the Cy Young voting. The Yankees gave him a $324 million contract only because he has that caliber. Today, he is focused on winning a ring in pinstripes.

“I’m striving to be the best version of me,” Gerrit Cole said. “I believe if I continue to do that, that award or other awards may come. I wouldn’t say anything hinges on it. I think I obviously have the tools to finish at the top of the league in that regard if I execute, or at least give myself the best opportunity to put my team in a position to win most of the games I play in. That’s my main goal.”

“Personally, it’s not my motivation to bring home any awards or trophies other than the one they give out at the end of October.”

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