The last time that Gerrit Cole and Shane Bieber were on the opposite sides of a pitching matchup was Game 1 of last year’s Wild Card Series. It was a matchup of a guy who was the hot favorite for Cy Young (and eventually did win) and a guy who had just signed a monster free agent contract after establishing himself as one of the best pitchers in the sport. You could have reasonably expected it to be a pitcher’s duel.
It didn’t end up being the case, as the Yankees scored seven runs off Bieber and knocked him out early. Cole was great, but it was a lopsided final score. Several months later, we got the matchup again, and this time, we witnessed the pitching excellence, as previously advertised.
Cole and Bieber were both excellent — it’s just that one ended up being slightly more excellent. For Cleveland, Bieber allowed two runs on four hits and three walks while striking out nine in seven innings. Unfortunately for Cleveland, two of those hits went over the fence.
Meanwhile, Cole was incredible, allowing just one run on three hits and no walks, also in seven innings. He struck out 11, setting all sorts of early-season records in the process. His outing allowed the Yankees to come away with a 2-1 win in a Saturday night showdown in Cleveland.
There weren’t a ton of scoring opportunities in the first three innings. The Yankees left two on in the first, but Bieber ran through them in the next couple innings. Cleveland couldn’t get much going against Cole early, but eventually struck first in the fourth.
With one out in the inning, José Ramírez took a Cole pitch deep to right. Aaron Judge did a nice job of robbing him of the home run. That doesn’t mean he made the catch, however, as he dropped it, allowing Ramírez to get to third with a triple. Eddie Rosario immediately singled him home on the next pitch to give Cleveland the lead.
The lead didn’t last particularly long, as Aaron Hicks led off the top of the fifth with a home run, evening things back up. A couple batters later and for the third time in as many days, Rougned Odor then came up with a big hit. Odor also homered off Bieber, putting the Yankees in front.
Both starters kept their opponents off the board until turning it over to their bullpens. In the Yankees’ case, they brought in Justin Wilson for the eighth inning. He retired the first hitter he faced, but then walked Roberto Pérez on four pitches and fell behind 3-0 to Jordan Luplow. One of those balls was an extremely wild pitch that put the tying run in scoring position. Wilson battled back to eventually get Luplow to pop up.
At that point, Aaron Boone went back to the bullpen and brought in Jonathan Loaisiga, who got another pop up to end the inning. Loaisiga came back out for the ninth, which was much less stressful. He notched three quick outs to seal a 2-1 win and the Yankees’ first series win in over two weeks.
The Yankees have had some excellent pitchers in recent years — pitchers who have even finished high in Cy Young voting. It’s been several years now since they’ve had one of capital T, capital G, “Those Guys.” Cole is one of the best pitchers in baseball and when he’s on like he was in this game, it’s an incredible thing to watch.