The Yankees signed Gerrit Cole for exactly this reason: to be that capital A ace to send to the mound in big games. After a sample size of one playoff game, he’s doing a good job. Oh, and the Yankees’ offense was pretty impressive, too.
Matched up against expected AL Cy Young winner Shane Bieber, the Yankees struck early and often, scoring seven runs off him and knocking him out of the game during the fifth inning. They continued pouring it on after he left, as they scored 12 runs in total.
That was more than plenty for Cole, who allowed just two runs on six hits while striking out 13 in an excellent playoff debut in a Yankee uniform. Thanks to all that, the Yankees are off to a picture perfect playoff start after beating the Indians 12-3 in Game One of the Wild Card Series.
Much was made pregame about coming up with a plan the lineup can use to score off Bieber. It didn’t take very long to figure out if the one the Yankees came up with would work. After DJ LeMahieu singled to lead off the game, Aaron Judge homered to give the Yankees the lead before an out was recorded. Those two runs were more than Bieber had allowed total in the first inning during the regular season.
Two innings later, they added to their lead. After Bieber retired the first two hitters of the third, Aaron Hicks kept the inning alive with a walk. Luke Voit followed that with a double off the wall. Hicks came all the way around from first, scoring to give the Yankees a bit more breathing room.
Cleveland then got on the board in the bottom half of the inning. After Cole retired the lead off hitter, Delino DeShields reached on a single. A wild pitch and a wild throw from Kyle Higashioka then allowed him to go to second. Two batters later, César Hernández singled, putting runners on the corner and brining José Ramírez to the plate. The MVP candidate won the marquee battle against Cole, doubling down the line. However, it only plated one run, and Cole bounced back and struck out the next hitter to limit the damage.
Despite that setback, the Yankees’ lead would be even higher than it was after the next frame finished. In the fourth, Gleyber Torres drew a one-out walk, bringing Brett Gardner to the plate. Gardner over Clint Frazier was the controversial lineup choice going into the game, but the veteran quashed that and delivered. He doubled, scoring Torres. Higashioka and LeMahieu then both hit singles, the latter scoring Gardner and taking the lead out to four runs.
The Indians got one of those runs back when Josh Naylor homered in the fourth. It was just a solo shot and Cole bounced back and retired the next hitters he faced to end the inning.
That single run would then again be matched and exceeded by the Yankees’ offense. After a two-out Gio Urshela single, Torres homered. That knocked Bieber out of the game. The Yankees tagged him for seven runs on nine hits and two walks in just 4.2 innings.
The seventh inning saw the Yankees tack on four more runs, capped off by Gardner’s two-run home run to get the team in double-digit runs.
Cole got through one more inning before being replaced by Luis Cessa to start the eighth. His 13 strikeouts is the second most Ks by a Yankee pitcher in a playoff game, trailing only Roger Clemens’ 15 in Game Four of the 2000 ALCS. He also joined some pretty good company by doing that while walking no one.
13+ K, 0 BB in Postseason Game— James Smyth (@JamesSmyth621) September 30, 2020
Tom Seaver 1973 NLCS Gm 1 NYM at CIN (13/0)
Gerrit Cole 2020 ALWC Gm 1 NYY at CLE (13/0)
Giancarlo Stanton added a solo homer for good measure in the ninth, leaving Hicks as the only one in the lineup to not get a hit. (Although, he walked twice.) Cessa allowed a run in the ninth, but it was way too little, too late for Cleveland, and he eventually finished things off.
Even those who felt good about the Yankees’ chances against Bieber likely couldn’t have imagined this. For all their struggles, the offense still has so much talent in it, and they picked a perfect time to show it off.