The Yankees were able to split the series in a finale that was expected to be a pitching duel between Gerrit Cole and Pablo Lopez.
But Cole (4-0) threw a complete game shutout and outshined his counterpart, allowing just two hits, a walk and no runs in the Yankees’ 2-0 victory against the Twins. He didn’t allow a hit through 4.1 innings and struck out 10 batters, his 23rd double-digit strikeout game as a Yankee, tying him with Ron Guidry for the franchise record.
“I mean first of all I’m happy that we got the win,” Cole said about his performance. “And I mean it’s special, Ron’s such a good person and a great human being and a great Yankee so anytime you’re mentioned with him it’s pretty special.”
The 32-year-old ace lowered his season’s ERA to 0.95 after throwing 109 pitches in what Aaron Boone called a “big-time performance.”
“He’s just handling situation after situation so well but I think his fastball command and the fact he’s pressuring it in a lot of different places in the strike zone has been huge for him,” Boone said about Cole.
“He’s a special pitcher and he’s just in a really locked in, focused place,” the manager added.
Sunday’s victory was Cole’s first complete game since July 17, 2021 when the Yankees won a shortened, six-inning game at Yankee Stadium. The last time Cole threw a full nine-inning game was against the Astros on July 10, 2021.
Boone had reliever Clay Holmes ready for the ninth inning with Cole entering with 95 pitches already thrown. The top of Twins order was due up, with Carlos Correa in the hole hoping to spark a comeback. But after the ace was able to retire No. 9 hitter Michael Taylor and leadoff man Edouard Julien, Cole made easy work of the former Astro.
“I was sticking with him as long as I felt like he was sound and I usually get a pretty good feel from him,” Boone said. “I had Clay [Holmes] ready for Correa if [Cole] got in trouble or lost somebody and Correa was gonna be his last batter. But, you know, I felt like he was in position to do what he did.”
Cole spoke about the satisfaction of carrying his team on the mound for nine innings.
“I think it’s just old school,” he said. “And we had our work cut out for us today and we were facing a great team, a great pitcher. Just more satisfied with the win.”
The “old school” performance was one voters can look back on when tallying votes for a Cy Young award, an accomplishment that has eluded Cole in his previous 11 years. The righty finished second twice for the award in his career: behind then-Rays starter Robbie Ray in 2021 and behind former teammate Justin Verlander in Houston in 2019.
But the Yankees skipper believes the five-time All-Star will get his hands on the hardware more than once before it’s all said and done.
“He’s gonna get one, maybe more,” Boone said. “He’s gonna be in that conversation every year and has been now for a number of years. So he’s in a great place right now and [I] look forward to seeing him out there in a few days.”
It was the second straight game the Twins’ bats were mostly neutralized to end the first season series between the two teams, a stark difference compared to the 20 combined hits in the first two games. The Twins had five hits Saturday and Cole held them to just two on Sunday.
The Yankees got traffic in the third inning after a one-out walk to Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo reached after Lopez hit the first baseman on the foot.
The HBP is Rizzo’s 204th of his career, tying him with ex-Phillies infielder Chase Utley for 204th all-time.
Gleyber Torres struck out afterwards. DJ LeMahieu’s RBI single on a hit-and-run scored Judge as the Yankees struck first. The inning ended after Willie Calhoun, who got the start at DH, flew out to center.
LeMahieu dealt most of the damage to Lopez, who allowed seven hits, two earned runs, a walk and threw 103 total pitches on Sunday.
The infielder homered to right, a 340-foot flyball that extended the lead to 2-0. He finished the day 2-for-4 with two RBI and a strikeout. Sunday was his first multi-RBI game of the season.
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The Twins got their first hit in the fifth inning, a single to left by Donovan Solano on a 2-2 count. The inning ended afterwards with a Max Kapler groundout to the pitcher.
With Stanton’s hot bat out of the order due to a hamstring injury, the Yankees started Aaron Hicks in left, Judge in center and Oswaldo Cabrera in right. The trio combined for 0-for-9 at the plate, including three strikeouts for Hicks. The struggling veteran heard boos after each strikeout. He dropped his helmet and bat in frustration after the third strikeout, which continues his poor start to the season.
“From Aaron [Hick’s] standpoint, I think he’s past where that’s a shock to the system,” Boone said in reaction to Yankees fans booing Hicks. “It’s not fun now, but I don’t think it’s anything that’s creeping into him right now.”
The 11-year veteran’s average is down to .136 with just three hits in 22 plate appearances.
Anthony Volpe went 1-for-4 and stole a base. The rookie is now 7-for-7 in stolen base attempts on the season.
The Yankees (10-6) hope to continue their win streak when Shoehi Ohtani, Mike Trout and the Angels (7-7) come into New York for a three-game series starting on Tuesday. The Angels will enter the Bronx on a three-game losing streak.
Boone expects Clarke Schmidt to start the series on Tuesday, followed by Jhony Brito and Nestor Cortes.