Cole Bests Bieber as Yankees Rout Indians in Wild Card Series Opener

Max Goodman

Billed as the premier pitching matchup across baseball, Tuesday night's Yankees-Indians Wild Card Series opener couldn't have been more one-sided.

Once the Bombers' bats stormed in front against Shane Bieber, the presumptive American League Cy Young Award winner, Yankees' ace Gerrit Cole took care of the rest.

New York cruised to victory in an 12-3 rout at Progressive Field, placing Cleveland on the brink of elimination.

"This is a really good way to start out a series against a really good team against a great pitcher and have Gerrit throw the ball the way he did is big," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.

Cole didn't just secure the win in his Yankees postseason debut, he produced his best start of the entire season. The right-hander had 13 strikeouts, allowing just two runs on six hits without issuing a single walk.

"We needed to set the tone for the series," Cole said. "I'm very thankful and humbled to be able to take the ball and be in this position. So to be able to deliver feels really good."

Beyond a fourth-inning home run from Cleveland's left fielder Josh Naylor—who had four hits on the night—New York's ace ran right through the Indians' lineup. Cole had two strikeouts in all but one of his seven innings of work. After the Naylor home run, the right-hander retired 10 of the final 11 batters he faced.

"This is why we got him," said Aaron Judge, who set the tone for New York with a booming two-run home run on just the fourth pitch of the game. "We didn't get him to throw in April, we didn't get him to throw in May, we got him to throw in postseason baseball for the Yankees, that's what he did. All year seeing him throw, he takes it to another level, but this time he took it up another notch."

READ: Can Yankees Survive and Advance in Postseason Without Home Run Ball?

Taking it to another notch resulted in Cole making history.

His 13-strikeout performance set MLB playoffs history as Cole became the first pitcher ever to record a third postseason outing with 12-plus strikeouts. He also joined Hall of Famer Tom Seaver (1973) as the only pitchers with 13-or-more strikeouts and no walks in a postseason game.

While Cole was magnificent, Bieber struggled mightily.

Bieber had given up seven earned runs through his first eight starts (and 52 2/3 innings) during the regular season. It took less than five innings for the Yankees to tag him for that many Tuesday. 

Shortstop Gleyber Torres smacked a 2-2 fastball over the center-field wall for a two-run blast to put the Yankees ahead, 7-2, and chase Bieber from the game.

"We're focused," Torres said. "As a team, we compete every night and right now it's our time to win all the games... It's really good energy in the dugout, clubhouse and we come into the field and try to damage."

Brett Gardner and Giancarlo Stanton each added a home run off the Cleveland bullpen. Torres had four hits, and Gardner finished a triple shy of the cycle. New York finished with 15 hits against five different Indians pitchers in the offensive onslaught.

"I don't think you ever expect that against the pitcher is the caliber of Shane Bieber," Gardner said. "I thought that collectively we put some really good at bats together and anytime you're able to get your ace a couple runs early and give him some room to work with I thought he did a great job, Gerrit, of just getting ahead, you know commanding the zone and really making it tough on their hitters so just overall a fun game to be a part of."

READ: Yankees' DJ LeMahieu, Luke Voit Make History With League-Leading Performances

Masahiro Tanaka takes the mound for the Yankees Wednesday night, and with a win, they will advance to the American League Division Series.

"Today's done with. The game that happened tonight is over," Judge said. "It's back to 0-0 and it's about winning tomorrow it's about winning the next game... We'll come in a little more focused knowing that we have a chance to win the series tomorrow and head on to California. I think I think the boys will be ready to go."

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For more from Max Goodman, follow him on Twitter @MaxTGoodman. Follow ITP on Twitter @SI_Yankees and Facebook @SIYankees

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