If Corey Kluber had not thrown a no-hitter earlier this year, tonight would have gone down as the best performance by a Yankees pitcher this season. Fresh off his worst outing of the season and amidst questions that he was useless without Spider Tack, Gerrit Cole put together his best performance in pinstripes, twirling a dominant complete-game shutout and outdueled the Astros pitching staff as the Yankees won, 1-0, to clinch the season series against Houston.
Coming into this game, the big question was whether Cole would be able to find the rhythm he had early in the season, during the Spider Tack days. Against the best lineup in the American League, he answered that question in a big way, allowing zero runs on three hits, striking out 12 and walking only two. He didn’t allow a baserunner until the fourth inning, when he completely lost the strike zone and walked both Jose Altuve and Michael Bradley to put runners on first and second with nobody out; a big strikeout of Yuli Gurriel and a 4-6-3 double play off the bat of Yordan Álvarez allowed him to escape the jam unscathed.
The next inning he allowed his first hit, a one-out bloop single by Abraham Toro that clocked in at a very nice 69 mph off the bat. He then advanced into scoring position on a wild pitch during a Myles Straw strikeout, but there he remained when Cole got his good friend and old batterymate Martín Maldonado to ground out to second. The only other baserunners he allowed after that was a leadoff single by Gurriel in the seventh — after which he swiftly retired Álvarez, Kyle Tucker, and Toro — and a leadoff single by Altuve in the ninth, after which he induced a fly out to center after a ten-pitch battle with Brantley before striking out Gurriel and Álvarez to end the game.
In all, Cole absolutely eviscerated the Astros lineup that, albeit lacking Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman, is filled top-to-bottom with great hitters. According to Statcast, he allowed only five hard-hit balls all day and limited Astros hitters to only a .139 xBA. He threw 129 pitches, the most pitches thrown by any pitcher in baseball since 2019. And he went full Mike Mussina on manager Aaron Boone, who wanted to pull him for Aroldis Chapman with two outs in the ninth, demanding — with a few expletives — the opportunity to finish the game.
Gerrit Cole, Refusing to Leave (after 126 pitches) pic.twitter.com/MAFY62jusM— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 11, 2021
And to make it even more insane, it turns out that Boone didn’t expect much out of Cole tonight, as the ace has been under the weather lately — in fact, he’d been receiving IVs while in Seattle, had struggled to get food down earlier this week, and as of two days ago, was not a lock to even pitch this weekend.
Although not as lockdown as Cole was tonight, the Astros pitching staff largely stifled the Yankees, allowing only one run on six hits. Fortunately, one of those hits was a monster shot off the bat of Aaron Judge with two outs in the third.
However, in typical 2021 fashion, the Yankees did threaten on more than one occasion. Thanks to a hustle double by Gleyber Torres in the fourth, the Yankees had a runner in scoring position with one out, and although he advanced to third on a fly ball to right by Gio Urshela, Brett Gardner was unable to bring him home. The eighth inning saw runners on first and second with one out and Ryne Stanek completely losing control of the strike zone, but Giancarlo Stanton grounded a 3-0 pitch up the middle for an inning-ending 4-4-3 double play. If Cole hadn’t been so dominant, the story of tonight would have been the team’s inability to capitalize.
Cole gets the win and improves to 9-4, while Zack Greinke is tagged with the loss and falls to 8-3. With the win, the Yankees improve to 46-42. The first half will wrap up tomorrow with the final game in Houston, as Jameson Taillon (4-4, 5.05 ERA) looks to build off his best performance in pinstripes his last time out; he will be going up against the young lefty Framber Valdez (5-1, 2.86 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 2:10 pm ET.