Gerrit Cole on 100th Career Win: 'Thankful To Be Able To Do It In a Yankees Uniform'
NEW YORK — While the Yankees' offense was busy slugging its way to franchise records on Wednesday night, Gerrit Cole was making history of his own on the mound.
The right-hander earned the 100th win of his career, tossing seven innings of one-run ball, helping New York cruise to a 13-2 blowout victory over the Blue Jays.
"I’m really thankful to be able to do it in a Yankees uniform," Cole said. "It’s a special number and this is a special team and a lot of special things happen here."
It was only a matter of time until Cole would eclipse 100 victories in his career. It was the 30-year-old's pace in reaching triple digits, however, that warrants cracking open baseball's history books.
Cole is just the 38th pitcher in Major League Baseball history to reach 100 wins within his first 203 career appearances and just the 13th to do so since 1960. Since the 21st century began, only right-handers Justin Verlander, Roy Oswalt and Mark Mulder have accomplished such a feat.
Cole didn't allow a hit through the first five frames against the Jays. A ringing double from Toronto's Jonathan Villar to lead off the sixth inning ended the right-hander's modest bid at a no-no. He wound up striking out eight, placing his strikeout-per-nine ration to 11.86 on the season (87 punch outs in 66 innings).
With so much run support early on, as New York's offense mashed seven home runs, Cole was able to "fill up the zone," striving to work quickly and get his teammates back into the batter's box to do more damage.
"As a pitcher, it’s out of your control to a certain extent," Cole said on run support. "You need to be able to stay neutral there whether you are getting runs or you’re not getting runs. At that point when they start to put some crooked numbers up early, it opens the zone up a little more, in terms of that’s just what you’ve got to do. If you give up a hit or two, so be it."
Factoring in Wednesday night's performance, and over his eight seasons in the Majors, Cole has posted a 3.20 ERA over 1,261 innings with 1,423 strikeouts. To go along with six wins (and counting) in pinstripes, Cole recorded 59 victories over five years with the Pittsburgh Pirates and another 35 over a pair of campaigns in a Houston Astros uniform.
"I’m just really thankful and blessed to be able to stay healthy enough to take the ball that many times and play on enough good teams along the way that have supported me," Cole added. "It’s a team stat, you have to play well as a unit to win the game and you have to typically last deep into the game so it’s a nice accomplishment."
To make the the milestone even more special, Cole toed the slab with Kyle Higashioka behind the plate, a backstop that he first pitched to while the duo was playing scout ball where they grew up in Southern California. Yankees' outfielder Aaron Hicks was also on their team at one point, Cole revealed.
"I've thrown to Kyle since I was like 13 or 14 so it's kind of a trip," Cole said. "I think at this point with the way he's swinging, I might be his personal pitcher so that if he catches me, he can really rake."
As Cole alluded to, Highashioka had a night to remember on Wednesday at Yankee Stadium as well. In between innings behind the plate, the backstop hit three home runs, a performance with the bat in his hands that he won't soon forget.
"We've known each other for a while so at the beginning it's just cool to see a familiar face but I think we have a pretty good understanding of how each other likes to attack the hitters," Higashioka explained. "Between innings we always have a good dialogue on the way we attacked the previous guys and how we're going to go forward and attack the next few hitters."
Jokes and history aside, the battery has worked well up to this point for the Bombers. It could be a sneak peak for how Yankees' manager Aaron Boone will line up his squad for Cole's Yankees postseason debut in a few weeks.
Higashioka has been behind the plate, since coming off a stint on the injured list, in each of Cole's previous three outings. In that span, the Yankees' ace is 2-1 with a 0.90 ERA, allowing just two earned runs to score (and one homer) over 20 innings.
"He’s so engaged," Cole said on Higashioka. "I think he prepares just like everybody else here. That seems to be a common theme with good players, they’re prepared when they go in. I think he’s really good with his reads behind the dish, he’s a great communicator."
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