Gerrit Cole entered the press conference room at Yankee Stadium on Sunday still grumbling about his 114th and final pitch of the day.
The 3-2 pitch landed in the right-field seats off the bat of Kole Calhoun, but even if it was “bad damage,” as Cole described it, it was the only damage he gave up all afternoon.
The seventh-inning solo home run that tied the game snapped Cole’s scoreless streak at 18 ²/₃ innings, but otherwise the Yankees ace turned in a third straight strong start in a 2-1 win over the Rangers in Game 1 of a doubleheader.
“I just don’t want to walk him there, but I also don’t want to give up a homer,” Cole said. “I’ve had a lot of good battles with [Calhoun] dating all the way back to the Pac-12. I got beat. But a lot of good today.”
Throwing the most pitches by any starter in MLB so far this season, Cole struck out 10 over 6 ¹/₃ innings while scattering five hits and one walk.
After three rough starts to begin the year (eight earned runs in 11 ¹/₃ innings), Cole has turned his season around with his last three starts, during which he has allowed just one run across 19 innings.
“It’s been great,” manager Aaron Boone said. “I mean, he’s great. He’s a great pitcher. It was a matter of time. Even in the first few [starts], there were a lot of good things that were in there that were bubbling. It’s good to see this come out now, another really strong one by him.”
The Rangers forced Cole to throw 47 pitches to get through two innings. He gave up three hits and a walk, but he stranded all four runners to keep the game scoreless.
Cole then settled in with perfect third, fourth and fifth innings that helped get his pitch count back in check.
Marcus Semien hit a leadoff infield single in the sixth, but Cole retired the next three batters to finish the inning at 105 pitches. He then talked with Boone in the dugout between innings, with the manager describing Cole as “adamant” that he was comfortable to pitch the seventh.
“I felt really good,” said Cole, who threw to Kyle Higashioka for the first time in three starts. “I think I executed every single pitch the inning before. I know we have a doubleheader today. I just wanted to let him know, like, ‘Hey man, I’m good.’ ”
Despite Cole’s outing ending on Calhoun’s homer, he was pleased with how he handled a cold, windy day in The Bronx. Cole said the wind affected his cutter, not being able to get it to cut enough, but helped his fastball with some extra movement up and away.
“I thought we used the elements well,” Cole said. “I think in the outfield it was blowing pretty much in, but it was a howling crosswind left-to-right today. I found it fascinating.”