With seemingly all eyes on Gerrit Cole Wednesday night, the Yankees’ ace blocked out all the external chatter and delivered six strong innings while allowing two runs in a 9-6 win over the Twins.
Cole, whose name has come to the forefront in stories regarding MLB cracking down on pitchers using foreign substances on the mound, struck out nine Twins while keeping a laser-sharp focus on the mound.
“I just tried to approach it like I do every other game, tried to have Game Seven mentality, keep my blinders on, stay focused on the things that I can control and try to bring out the best delivery I can and have a good game plan with Kyle (Higashioka),” Cole said.
“The outside chatter is the outside chatter, and as players we just have to do our best to stay focused on our job.”
After fielding questions this week from reporters about his recent dip in spin rate and whether or not there is any connection to using illegal substances on the hill, Cole seemed to downplay the importance of this outing, equating it to all of his other starts.
But even manager Aaron Boone admitted there was probably a little bit of extra motivation for the Yankees’ ace.
“Obviously, there’s been a lot of talk all week and I just thought he came out with a tremendous focus, I mean like he always does, but blocking out a lot of the noise and going out and pitching and executing. I thought he got us off to a great start,” Boone said. “I thought some of his secondary stuff was really good tonight. Both breaking balls, the curve ball and the slider, and the fastball, he was bringing it from jump street and then kind of grinded his way though some of those middle innings and made big pitches when he had to. Just a really strong start to put us in a good spot.
“He plays the game with an edge, he pitches with an edge, and that’s usually the case. … There’s always an edge to it, and tonight? Sure, there was.”
Cole also briefly explained his hesitancy in answering a question on Tuesday about using Spider Tack.
“I hesitated yesterday on the specificity of the question because I just don’t think this is the forum to discuss those kinds of things,” said Cole. “… There’s an appropriate time for players to discuss those things, and I’ll keep it to that forum.”
Not only was Cole questioned by reporters this week about using substances to enhance his spin rate, but Twins third baseman Josh Donaldson also questioned Cole publicly.
But it was Cole who got the final laugh on Wednesday, retiring Donaldson all three times he faced him, including two strikeouts.
Still, Cole said there wasn’t any extra incentive to get Donaldson out, other than trying to keep the Twins’ offense at bay.
“He’s a former MVP, a big cog in the lineup, two-hole, important spot for us to really try to attack and keep neutralized if we want to keep runs off the board, so just the satisfaction of executing those pitches in that spot to put our team in better position to win was enough,” Cole explained.
Boone said before Wednesday’s game that he expects the league to start enforcing the rules on foreign substances more closely in the near future, but no matter what kinds of twists and turns this leads to, he still has the utmost confidence in his ace.
“The one thing I know is he’s an amazing pitcher and a tremendous competitor,” Boone said. “When all of this dust settles and wherever this storyline goes, that ain’t changing. Just thought his effort with all of the distractions going on around him, he went out there and showed you who he was.”