Every time Gerrit Cole has taken the ball for the Yankees this season, he's pitched his way into the history books.
Friday night against the lowly Detroit Tigers was no exception.
On a chilly night in the Bronx, Cole struck out 12 over six scoreless frames. He didn't issue a single walk, allowing four scattered base hits.
With the Yankees' offense erupting for 10 runs behind him, it was more than enough of a dominant performance to secure the blowout victory for the Bombers.
As routine and ordinary as a 10-strikeout performance has become for the ace in pinstripes, the type of numbers that Cole has produced to start this season are historic.
Cole's 62 strikeouts through his first six starts (37.2 innings pitched) are the most by any Yankees pitcher in his first six games (or starts) of a season, surpassing Bob Turley’s 57 punch outs in 1955.
With 62 strikeouts as the month of April comes to a close, Cole fell just three short of setting a new franchise record for the most strikeouts in a single month. Ron Guidry had 64 in June of 1978.
Further, the right-hander now has four starts this year with 10-plus strikeouts and zero walks. That ties the Yankees' franchise record for a single season. Mike Mussina did it in 34 starts in 2001. Cole tied that impressive benchmark in just six.
"He's locked in, he's dealing, it's fun to watch him go out there and pitch," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said after the game.
As always, Cole's 87-pitch outing featured a heavy dosage of fastballs (37 to be exact). It was Cole's pitch mix and ability to use all four of his weapons, however, that made him so dominant.
"Today I thought he had a great curveball, the changeup continues to be a factor for him, obviously the slider, but I just think he's in such a good spot with his delivery and his fastball command and profile that everything kind of goes off of that," Boone said.
Cole got 21 whiffs over six innings. That's just under half of the amount of swings Detroit's lineup took against him (44). Each of his four pitches had three-plus whiffs on the night.
The 30-year-old has been toying with opposing hitters since his debut in pinstripes last season. In fact, Cole has now recorded at least seven strikeouts in each of his last 15 regular season starts, the longest such stretch by a Yankees hurler in franchise history.
If it wasn't for the active streak of 20 such games in a row by Indians ace Shane Bieber—who Cole outdueled last week—Cole would be tied for the longest stretch by a starter in American League history.
"It's amazing," Giancarlo Stanton said. "I make sure I watch just him pick apart and dissect what the hitters are trying to do and him trying to counter it. It's fun to watch and every night seems he's up there with 10 plus strikeouts and given us a great opportunity."
Cole humbly attributed some of his impeccable command to some fortunate calls, working back from behind in the count on multiple occasions. Other than that, by keeping hitters uncomfortable with unpredictable sequences, Cole said he's been executing his game plan.
"I came out with a goal to try to settle in bit earlier this year, and I think I'm on the right track to do that," Cole said. "Still making some adjustments, have to stay sharp in terms of counter punches, and continuing to find all four corners of the strike zone. I'm certainly pleased how we've gotten off to and we've put ourselves in a good position to continue to get stronger."
Through six starts, Cole is now 4-1 with a 1.43 ERA, the fifth-best ERA in the league. His 62 strikeouts are second only to Bieber while his 0.72 WHIP and .178 batting average against him are both inside the top 15 across baseball.
If he can keep this up throughout a long 162-game season, Cole won't just etch his name into the record books each time he toes the rubber, he might win the first Cy Young Award of his career.
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