NEW YORK — The scenario that New York Yankees starting pitcher Gerrit Cole found himself in to start his latest postseason journey was very familiar. The feelings while standing on the mound could not have been any more different.
After 14 career postseason starts, including four with the New York Yankees, Cole was finally able to start a playoff game while wearing the hallowed pinstripes and in front of a Yankee Stadium crowd that was supporting him instead of jeering him. And after almost seven full innings work, and leaving the game with the Yankees in the lead, Cole departed knowing that the love he received from the ever-demanding Yankee Stadium crowd hit different.
So much is different in October, of course, but one thing that has remained the same in the 10th month on the Gregorian calendar has been Cole’s dominance.
Cole struck out eight batters and allowed just one run in 6 1/3 innings while Harrison Bader and Anthony Rizzo each hit home runs in support as the Yankees defeated the Cleveland Guardians 4-1 in the first game of the American League Division Series on Tuesday night. The Yankees bullpen closed out the game for Cole with 2 2/3 scoreless innings as the Yankees won their 11th postseason opener in their last 14 playoff openers since 2005.
Going against the youngest team in baseball whose maturity belied its youth, Cole was tested time and again by the Guardians, who took scored first on a Steven Kwan solo home run in the third inning. In each of the first three innings, Cole allowed at least one base runner to reach scoring position, but was able to strand all five of those runners, including striking out Andres Gimenez with the bases loaded and two outs later in the third inning. After Cole allowed the home run to Kwan on a fastball, the former relied on his sharp breaking pitches to regularly get the Guardians hitters to chase during those clutch at-bats.
When he left the game in the seventh inning, Cole tipped his cap to the appreciative fans, a first in the postseason for Cole in the Yankees pinstripes.
“It was just a really awesome experience overall. Just sometimes when you feel the crowd or the energy, you know, it sometimes can become a little easier just to quiet things down because it’s so loud,” Cole said. “I don’t know if that makes sense but it does to me. And yeah, I mean, just what a great atmosphere.
Oh, and to top it off, Cole pitched one of his better postseason games on a special occasion.
“It was my dad’s birthday today. So it was a good day.”