Y’know, I think a lot about what it must be like to be an Angels fan. I watch a lot of Angels baseball, or at least, I did until about a month ago. You have the two most talented players in franchise history playing at the same time, and it’s just so unlikely to find yourself in that time and place. You’ve got to appreciate it while you have it, even if the team stinks. The moments of joy from Shohei Ohtani’s ten-strikeout starts or the pure dash that Mike Trout has brought to the game over the past decade don’t make the misery worth it on the whole, but in any one game, they sure can.
Tonight was what being an Angels fan must be like. The Yankees have the best pitcher in the American League, and the best hitter in all of baseball, and not much else. The most they can hope for is a distant fourth-place finish after coming off a division title last season. And tonight, we forgot all about that misery, because of how damn good Aaron Judge and Gerrit Cole are. The two superstars put the team on their backs in the second straight win over the Blue Jays, a 6-0 final from Toronto.
I guess we start with the ace. We saw last night that facing the same team twice in a week can have some affects, as Michael King’s command just wasn’t what you’d like to see from your starting pitcher. Last week, Cole threw eight innings, allowing one hit, no walks, and striking out nine. He was a little worse today — he gave up two hits.
Tonight was nothing short of a masterclass, as Cole worked a complete game shutout, and one where he only struck out five guys. This entire season has been a bit of a lesson in how to win the award for best pitcher while actually seeing your strikeout numbers drop — this will be the first time since 2017 that Cole’s strikeout rate will be below 30 percent.
I’m reminded a lot of Roy Halladay when I watch Cole pitch, and tonight that happened again. I remember watching Halladay pitch against the early-to-mid 2000s Yankees or Red Sox and be able to adjust approach start by start, flummoxing hitters with high strikeout totals in one game and then managing contact like a 40 year old spitballer the next. Cole did the same thing tonight, with six ground ball outs and an average exit velo below 90 mph on his four-seam fastball, despite just three whiffs.
He will win the Cy Young Award, and rightfully so.
Aaron Judge, meanwhile, continued to be José Berríos’ personal Babadook:
Berríos walked Judge and Gleyber Torres to get to Giancarlo Stanton, which doesn’t sound like terrible strategy even if it was unintentional. It blew up in his face, as Stanton was able to get the bat head around and bring two Yankees to score, but Torres made one of his trademark blunders at third:
I’ll have more to say on this next week but like...boy I don’t love the idea of extending guys like this. Torres is a perfectly good player, an above average hitter, but then he’ll have a play develop entirely, 100 percent in front of him and make the stupidest possible decision. If you’re going to do this kinda stuff, do it when you’re up 4-0, so good timing on that I guess.
Judge continued to be the best hitter on the planet, hunting a changeup from Trevor Richards:
That’s No. 37 for the Yankee captain.
Aaron Judge can max out at 107 games this year— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) September 28, 2023
his 37 HR are 2nd-most by a player in a season he played fewer than 110 games, behind only:
1995 Mark McGwire: 39 (104 g)
Just like 2017, it seems Judge is destined to break another of Mark McGwire’s home run milestones. He has just four games to do it, but would anyone doubt that he could do it?
We’ll have all winter to complain about how this franchise is wasting the primes of two of the most talented players to ever put pinstripes on. For now, revel in that greatness. Gerrit Cole will win the Cy Young, and there’s a very good chance Aaron Judge hits 40 home runs in a season where he missed 50 games. There can be a lot of joy in baseball in any one game, and despite how this season has played out, we got that joy tonight.
Clarke Schmidt gets the ball as the Yankees go for the sweep tomorrow. First pitch is at 7:07pm Eastern, back on YES.