Gerrit Cole is undeniably the ace for the Yankees, and he did exactly what he’s supposed to in this division series. Cole may not have been the absolute best starter for New York this season, but he is their most talented, and the one they will always lean on when he’s needed the most. They needed the world from Cole in the ALDS, and he delivered.
Over two starts against the Guardians, Cole went 13.1 innings, allowing three earned runs, while striking out 16 and walking just two. His two starts established the Yankees in the win column in Game 1, and then saved the series and the season in Game 4 in Cleveland. With all due respect to Harrison Bader’s homers and Wandy Peralta’s rock-solid relief pitching, Cole’s 13.1 innings of dominance across two wins make him more than deserving of the MVP title for this series.
In the opening game of the series, the veteran right-hander went 6.1 innings, giving up just one earned and striking out eight. This game was a comfortably smooth one for the Bombers, thanks in large part to an equally smooth start from their ace. Aside from the seemingly obligatory home run he surrendered (to Steven Kwan of all people), it was a mostly steady start for him.
Particularly encouraging were the adjustments he made in this start. With the Kwan homer and more trouble looming in the third inning, Cole did not allow the Guardians to capitalize. He was able to make an adjustment and turn in an excellent start, which saw him going to his breaking pitches to get Guardian hitters out, and it worked quite well.
In Game 4, Cole turned in a performance that was just as solid, in what was an even more important game. He finished seven innings, gave up two earned, and struck out eight more. Game 4 came on the heels of two crushing losses back-to back-in Games 2 and 3, and was a must-win in every sense for the Yankees. They turned to their ace and he delivered in the most important game of the season.
These big postseason starts are why teams so strongly pursue pitchers like Gerrit Cole. It’s a big part of why the Yankees committed $324 million to him, to make big-time starts when the pressure and stakes are at the highest.
Cole did not have a bad season by any stretch of the imagination, but 2022 was not his absolute best either, as he pitched to a 3.50 ERA. Dominant playoff performances, though, can do a lot to improve perceptions. He started the postseason on the right foot for the Yankees helping put them up 1-0, and kept them alive to force a fifth game in the series in his next appearance. He was even prepared to do more, as he warmed up in the bullpen at the end of the series-deciding Game 5. Although he didn’t end up being used, he was available to help the Yankees.
Although neither start was one for the record book or anything, he pitched the majority of innings in two of the three wins the Yankees needed in this series, and did so without much drama. He made a couple of mistakes that ended up in the seats, as he has all year, but didn’t allow those mistakes to snowball, turning in two excellent starts. Cole did exactly what the Yankees brought him in to do, coming through in the biggest games of the year, and helping push the team further into October.