NEW YORK — Gerrit Cole is making his pitch to own this October.
A gritty Cole held the Cheap New York Yankees Jerseys
scoreless without his sharpest stuff, Jose Altuve sparked Houston at the plate and the Cheap Houston Astros Jerseys
locked down a 4-1 victory Tuesday to take a 2-1 lead in the AL Championship Series.
Altuve and Josh Reddick homered early off Luis Severino, who laboured into the fifth while keeping the Yankees close. But they never broke through against Cole, who grinded through seven innings to win his 19th straight decision despite walking five batters for the second time in his career.
“Just boiled down to making some good pitches under pressure,” he said.
Cole escaped a bases-loaded jam in the first and stranded nine runners through five, improving to 3-0 with a 0.40 ERA in three playoff outings this year. Poised to become a prized free agent who could command more than $200 million, he’s putting together a dominant run that’s beginning to rival some of baseball’s greatest post-season pitching performances.
The 29-year-old right-hander, unbeaten in 25 starts since late May, allowed four hits and struck out seven. That ended a streak of 11 consecutive games with double-digit strikeouts — the previous big league record was eight. Cole led the majors with 326 Ks this season.
“I think he’s the best pitcher in baseball right now,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said. “Gerrit is locked in. And to see him do it on the big stage in a playoff game with the magnitude of this game, it was pretty awesome.”
Game 4 in the best-of-seven playoff is scheduled for Wednesday night — but that could change. The gloomy weather forecast calls for a substantial rainstorm, potentially forcing a postponement that would likely alter pitching plans for both teams.
Gleyber Torres homered in the eighth off Houston reliever Joe Smith, one batter after replay umpires reversed a call and ruled Edwin Encarnación out at first base. That led to a little trash and a ball being thrown onto the field before public address announcer Paul Olden reminded fans not to toss any objects out of the stands.
Roberto Osuna got three quick outs in the ninth for a save.
“Two more to go,” Osuna said. “I’m excited.”
The bushy-haired Cole grew up in California rooting for the Yankees and was drafted by them 28th overall in 2008. He didn’t sign, choosing instead to attend UCLA before the Pittsburgh Pirates selected him with the top pick in 2011.
Making his second career start at Yankee Stadium, he got away with several pitches in key situations. Other times, Cole flashed the filthy breaking balls and 98-100 mph heat that have made him so unhittable in October — and unbeatable since May.
His winning streak is the longest by a pitcher in one year since Rube Marquard began 19-0 for the 1912 New York Giants.
“He’s exceptional. And he gets better and better and better,” Hinch said. “Once he found his curveball, it was pretty lights out. I think he finished his outing as strong as ever.”
After rolling to a 7-0 victory in the series opener, the Yankees — the highest-scoring team in the majors this season — have totalled three runs on two homers in the last 20 innings.
“It’s obviously a little frustrating we weren’t able to break through with him,” manager Aaron Boone said. “But I think up and down we gave ourselves a chance. And anytime you’re facing a guy like that, you want that kind of traffic. And we had that in several innings. He made big pitches when he had to.”
With two on in the fifth and the Astros clinging to a 2-0 lead, Didi Gregorius lofted a high fly that Reddick caught at the right field fence.
“The emotions kind of followed the flyball, right?” Cole explained. “So it was kind of like low, to freaking out, to not so worried anymore.”
The three-time All-Star finally found his rhythm after that, retiring his last seven batters with three strikeouts.
He called his early fastball command “spotty,” but his ability to pitch out of trouble prevented a lively sellout crowd of 48,998 from really ever letting loose.
NEW YORK — Gerrit Cole walked into a conference room after one of his first spring training workouts with the Houston Astros in February 2018 and was met by about 10 people.
“There was charts, video, matching charts,” Cole recalled. “It was all new then, but it’s pretty straightforward to me now.”
Cole transformed into perhaps the best pitcher in the major leagues after that one-hour presentation, increasing the usage of his four-seam fastball and curveball, pretty much dropping his two-seam sinker and attacking the top of the strike zone far more frequently.
With the Astros and Cheap New York Yankees Jerseys
tied at one game apiece in the AL Championship Series, Cole is 18-0 in his last 24 starts heading into his matchup Tuesday night against New York ace Luis Severino.
“It’s a blast. This is the big stage,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said. “It’s rowdy from the first pitch on. It will bring some adrenaline out of you.”
Houston may be known for oil, but this October it’s been Cole country. He is pitching his way into a post-season elite that includes Christy Mathewson, Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Orel Hershiser and Madison Bumgarner.
Once upon a time, the Astros remembered May 22 for hitting into a triple play.
Now it’s notable as the last time Cole lost.
Taken first overall by Pittsburgh in the 2011 amateur draft, Cole was 59-42 with a 3.50 ERA in five major league seasons when he was dealt to Houston in January 2018 for right-handers Joe Musgrove and Michael Feliz, third baseman Colin Moran and outfielder Jason Martin. Since that spring training meeting, his regular season record is 35-10.
Pitching coach Brent Strom did most of the talking during the discussion, joined by bullpen coach Josh Miller, minor league pitching co-ordinator Doug White, manager of major league advance information Tom Koch-Weser and Brandon Taubman, senior director of research and development and a former Ernst & Young derivative valuation expert.
“I just hadn’t dove into that whole realm much before. So I guess that was most surprising, that you could even like forecast what a pitch would project to be like against the rest of the league,” Cole said.
Hinch considers the presentation a trade secret, not surprising for an organization whose analytics team employed former NASA biomathematician Sig Mejdal, now with Baltimore.
“The preparation behind the scenes for what goes into the meetings and the communication with our players is unmatched in my time in the game,” said Hinch, in pro baseball for about a quarter-century. “Selling them is about providing them as much information as you can in an environment that’s a two-way street and applying it onto the field, which is what the player is in charge of. So that’s about as much detail as I’m going to give you about our meetings because it’s something that we consider very important to the development of our players.”
Cole threw just over 8% of his pitches in the upper third of the strike zone during his last season with the Pirates and another 11.5% wide of the upper third or above, according to Brooks Baseball. This year he threw nearly 13% in the upper third plus 21% high and wide.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone marvels at Cole’s “ability to really pitch at the top of the strike zone with his high-end fastball and really command it up there. Throw it at the top or expand just enough to get swings. And then a couple of electric breaking balls.”
Cole has a 1.66 ERA since that loss to the Chicago White Sox, when Jake Marisnak bounced into a 5-4-3 triple play. He reached double-digit strikeouts in 23 of 35 starts this year, including his last 11, and fanned at least one batter in 73 consecutive innings from Aug. 1 to Game 5 of the Division Series, the longest streak since 1961 by 33 innings.
He leaves a breeze at the plate: He induced 33 swings and misses in Game 2 against the Rays, the most in a post-season game since MLB started tracking the stat in 2008. In beating Tampa Bay in Games 2 and 5, he allowed one run and six hits in 15 2/3 innings, striking out 25 and walking three.
Cole’s winning streak is the longest by a pitcher in a year since Rube Marquard began 19-0 for the 1912 New York Giants, winning 18 of 19 starts and getting a victory and save in three relief appearances. Those 19 straight winning decisions matched the record set by the Giants’ Tim Keefe in 1888.
Times were different: Marquard had 16 complete games during that stretch. Cole has two during seven big league seasons, the last a one-hitter at Arizona on May 4 last year. Marquard was nicknamed the $11,000 Peach and $11,000 Beauty, a reference to the price the Giants paid Indianapolis for the right-hander in 1908.
Cole put himself in position for a $200 million-plus contract as a free agent this off-season. Perhaps with the Yankees, the team he rooted for growing up?
New York drafted him 28th overall in 2008 but Cole chose to attend UCLA. At times he wondered what his career would have been like in pinstripes, especially when Pittsburgh was considering trades.
“I don’t want to be dishonest and tell you that it didn’t cross my mind. Obviously I got drafted by them, so I thought about it then,” he said. “And all the rumours going around, it’s kind of hard to control what you hear. But as of late it’s just been not a thought at all.”
“I mean, we just had to work it,” Cole said.
Gregorius also grounded out with the bases loaded to end the first.
“Most of the game was on me,” he said. “I didn’t come through, so I was the one that failed, not the whole team.”
Houston got a rally going in the seventh against scuffling reliever Adam Ottavino. George Springer walked and went to third when Altuve executed a perfect run-and-hit single through the right side.
After savvy baserunning by Springer to stay in a rundown long enough to get runners to second and third, Altuve scored on Zack Britton’s wild pitch. Yuli Gurriel made it 4-0 with a sacrifice fly.
LET’S GET IT STARTED
The 5-foot-6 Altuve connected on Severino’s third pitch for his fourth homer of these playoffs, extending his post-season hitting streak to 12 games dating to last year.
“I think everybody knows I like swinging the bat,” he said. “I don’t like wasting too much time on home plate.”
Cole has 32 strikeouts in the playoffs while allowing just one run. He joined Cheap Houston Astros Jerseys
teammate Justin Verlander (2013 with Detroit) and Kevin Brown (1998 for San Diego) as the only pitchers to whiff at least 30 and permit no more than one run in a three-game post-season span, according to STATS.
Yankees LF Giancarlo Stanton sat out for the second consecutive game because of a strained right quadriceps. He was replaced in the lineup by CF Aaron Hicks, who batted ninth in his first start since Aug. 3 due to a strained flexor near his right elbow. Brett Gardner shifted from centre to left. Hicks went 0 for 2 with two walks.