by Howie Karpin, The NY Extra/thenyextra.com
Not that Gerrit Cole needed to pitch a good game but Gerrit Cole needed to pitch a good game.
It wasn’t a playoff or World Series game. It was a regular season game in June, but Cole took the mound last night with a little more pressure than usual in a regular season game because he had to answer an allegation that he was gaining an edge on his pitches, particularly his spin rate, by applying “sticky stuff” on the baseball.
Cole would have to provide that answer with his performance and he didn’t disappoint. He wasn’t vintage Gerrit Cole last night but he was very good and the Yankees finally supported him with some runs as they beat up on their perennial patsies with a 9-6 win over the Twins at Target Field.
The Yankees’ ace tossed six innings, giving up two runs on five hits with no walks and nine strikeouts. Manager Aaron Boone was impressed that his ace was able to block out the noise going into the game. “The one thing I know is he’s an amazing pitcher and a tremendous competitor. I thought his effort with all the distractions going on around him, he went out there and showed you who he was,” Boone said on the post game zoom.
Cole’s fastball has lacked real jump for the past couple of starts but he thrived with his secondary stuff last night. Against the Twins lineup, Cole used his slider, knuckle curve and change up effectively. Of his nine strikeouts, only one of those came on a four seam fastball.
The two runs that Cole yielded came on solo home runs and they were both on fastballs. A “room service” heater that Jorge Polanco (his first of two home runs) blasted into the right field seats in the 3rd inning and a “pitch to the scoreboard” fastball in the fifth that Miguel Sano put over the right field fence.
There was also a confrontation with the player who leveled the allegation. Twins third-baseman Josh Donaldson intimated that Cole was a player who used the sticky stuff known as “Spider Tack.” “Is it coincidence that Gerrit Cole’s spin rate went down after four minor leaguers got suspended ten games?,” Donaldson told the St Paul Pioneer Press last Friday.
Donaldson was referring to Cole’s previous outing vs. Tampa Bay when he gave up five runs in five innings in an eventual and ugly loss. Cole answered Donaldson’s allegation by striking him out twice and getting him on a fly out in the sixth. “He’s a former MVP, big cog in the lineup, two hole, important spot for us to, you know really try to attack and keep neutralized if we want to keep runs off the board, Cole said after the game. “Just the satisfaction of executing those pitches in that spot, put our team in a better position to win, it was enough.”
All eyes were on Cole to see if he would be off his game because of this distraction, but he credited wearing the Yankee uniform for helping him block out the chatter. “I think it’s fair to say it’s difficult to do it in this jersey in general, said Cole, “It’s what we sign up for when we come here.”
Cole had to laugh when he came to the realization that this is the kind of stuff that comes with the territory of being a Yankee. “It’s the thing that we love the most about playing here,” he said, laughingly, “but I guess you can’t have it all so we gotta do our job and that’s part of it.”
Cole was asked if he’ll speak to Donaldson. “I don’t see any need to, I’m good but if he has anything more to say, again, as I said yesterday, he’s welcome to reach out or whatever.”
The Yankee offense pounded out 15 hits to support Cole’s outing. It was also the first time they’ve scored eight or more runs in back to back games.
Giancarlo Stanton broke out of his slump with three hits, two home runs and five RBI’s. Aaron Judge had two hits including his 15th home run. Brett Gardner had a three hit night while Gio Urshela, Andujar and Kyle Higashioka had two hits apiece.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Yankee game without hitting into a double play. They had one to total 60 on the season and they were also 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position but they’ll take this second straight win and go for the sweep later tonight.