Gerrit Cole Twirls Two-Hit Complete-Game Shutout Against Orioles

Max Goodman

NEW YORK — With two outs and two strikes in the seventh inning, Gerrit Cole peered in from the stretch to get his sign from Kyle Higashioka behind the plate. He was one pitch away from finishing off a seven-inning complete-game shutout.

Cole reared back and fired in a 99 mph fastball, his 114th pitch of the game and one of the fastest he had thrown all afternoon.

Orioles' third baseman Rio Ruiz managed a weak chopper out in front of the mound. As the Yankees' ace gathered and riffled a strike to first base, he unleashed a fist pump, pounding his glove.

New York needed an ace-like performance on Friday afternoon, clinging to the final spot in the American League playoff race entering the first game of a doubleheader. Cole delivered. 

The right-hander twirled seven shutout innings, allowing just two hits while striking out nine and walking one. With plenty of run support from New York's offense, courtesy of three home runs, Cole was able to close out a 6-0 victory.

"I was happy to be able to finish it for me personally but also for the rest of the balance of the bullpen for the rest of the day," Cole said. "It’s nice to put a bow on it."

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While it wouldn't have counted as a no-hitter, as the only way to be credited with something as historic as a no-no or perfect game must include at least nine innings, Cole nearly finished the game with a zero in the hit column.

With two outs in the fifth inning, Baltimore's second baseman Hanser Alberto pounced on a first-pitch slider on the outside corner, slapping a line drive to right field. Ruiz added a base hit through the left side with two outs in the seventh.

Part of the reason why Cole was able to keep Orioles hitters off the bases was his ability to command the zone and effectively mix all four of his pitches.

He threw his heater 58 percent of the time, but over half of his swing and misses came on his off-speed pitches and just one of his nine punch outs came on a four-seamer.

"He was mixing all four pitches really well. Basically any pitch, any count," Higashioka said. "When you have a guy like that that can make any pitch in any situation, it’s always going to be a tough day for opposing hitters."

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Yankees' manager Aaron Boone, who confirmed it was Cole's game to finish so long as he was physically feeling "fine" toward the end of the outing, also singled out the hurler's blend of pitches from start to finish.

"He was again on the attack. I thought that his pitch mix was excellent today, I thought he did a great job of establishing the curveball as a change of pace early which made his fastball even play even better," Boone said. "Guys were able to get him some early runs and he took it from there"

This isn't the first time Cole has taken advantage of a shortened contest to pitch a complete game. On Opening Day at Nationals Park back in late-July, Cole's five innings of one-run ball earned him his first "CG" as a Yankee as the game was cut short due to rain. 

The only other time in Cole's career that he's thrown a complete-game shutout was in May of 2018 with the Astros.

"I just thought we had good command, thought we had a lead, thought we made smart pitches, mixed up well, had good stuff and finished it out this time," Cole explained.

To support their ace, Higashioka, Brett Gardner and DJ LeMahieu each left the yard to put the Bombers in front early on. Cole had received zero run support in each of his last two starts and just three total runs in his last four trips to the mound this season. 

Not only did the Yankees desperately need Cole to set the tone on Friday afternoon, but the right-hander was in search of his first win in almost a month. The ace had lost his previous three outings, the first of which put an end to his historic 20-game winning streak and 28-game undefeated streak dating back to last spring.

Asked about Cole's recent rut, Boone joked that Cole's slumps are far different than that of other hurlers across the game. Glancing up at the Jumbotron at the end of the game, the skipper noticed Cole's ERA had dipped to 3.20.

"I’ve gotten a further look behind the curtain at just how much this guy cares, how much he wants to win, how much attention he pays to the details that go into getting ready for a start in the days in between and then the day of and it was nice to see him go out and absolutely dominate a game from beginning to end," Boone said.

Friday's magnificent start also marked Cole's first outing with the Yankees where he didn't allow a home run. He had surrendered 13 long balls through his first nine starts this season, tied for the most homers allowed in all of baseball.

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