NEW YORK — Gerrit Cole's performance against the Orioles on Tuesday night wasn't just one of his best in a Yankees uniform.
It was one of the best outings of this right-hander's career.
Cole struck out 13 over seven scoreless frames under the lights at Yankee Stadium, retiring the final 12 batters he faced. New York's ace didn't walk a single batter, allowing four scattered base hits in a 7-2 victory over Baltimore.
"I thought that we just kept them off balance and made a lot of good pitches, came in the zone I think sometimes when they weren't expecting and we got them to chase off of good pitches back to back," Cole said.
For just his second outing of the year—after 5.1 innings on Opening Day—Cole showed that he's already ramped up on the mound. He threw 97 pitches, topping out at 100.5 mph on the gun.
Of those 97 pitches, 71 were strikes. He attacked the zone all night long, rarely falling behind or needing to battle deep into counts.
"He just never really had that lull," manager Aaron Boone said. "I felt like he was on the attack all night, dictating counts."
It was Cole's 39th start with 10-plus strikeouts of his career, his fourth in a Yankees uniform during the regular season. His 13 strikeouts were also the most by a Yankees starter since Masahiro Tanaka punched out 15 batters against the Blue Jays on Sept. 29, 2017.
Cole is also just the sixth pitcher in franchise history to throw at least seven scoreless frames while recording 13 strikeouts without surrendering a walk.
The closest Baltimore came to scoring was in the first inning. Orioles center fielder Cedric Mullins started the game with a single, stealing second and advancing to third on a wild pitch.
A chopper to the right side off the bat of right fielder Anthony Santander would've scored the speedster from third if it wasn't for a smooth play from Jay Bruce at first base, throwing Mullins out at the plate.
From that point on, with Cole on cruise control, Baltimore never got a runner past second base.
"All four pitches and using all of them and in pretty much any spot," catcher Kyle Higashioka said. "Fastball had life on it, curveball was very sharp, slider was great. Changeup was very good. I mean, everything was working for him. So I thought it was really good night for him."
On offense, New York's bats came to play. Aaron Judge had three hits, including a booming three-run home run in the eighth while Giancarlo Stanton added a 117.1-mph RBI double.
It was Cole's performance, though, that resonated with the right-hander's teammates. Bruce joked that it's far better to be on Cole's team, rather than facing him, while Higashioka explained just how special it is to play when Cole is pitching a gem.
"It's pretty fun when he's getting like big strikeouts to end innings and he's getting fired up," the backstop explained. "Then also having the fans here, that was definitely missing last year. Just like when we punch a guy out to end the inning and the fans go wild, I mean, I've definitely missed that probably more than anything."
Asked if Tuesday night was his best performance since his debut with the Yankees last summer, Cole paused, thinking through his first year with the organization.
He mentioned his 13-strikeout performance against the Indians in the first round of the postseason last year, along with a handful of outings against the Rays, a team he pitched against five times over the course of the campaign.
"It's hard to say," he said. "It was certainly a good day."
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