HOUSTON — Gerrit Cole finally stuck it to the Astros.
The right-hander ended the first half of the season the same way he started it: as the Yankees’ ace and in superb form.
Cole had his best start of the season Saturday night, shutting out the Astros in a 1-0 win in front of another sellout crowd at Minute Maid Park.
Aaron Judge hit a third-inning homer to spark the Yankees’ offense, but Cole carried the day.
With Aroldis Chapman warming in the bullpen, Cole remained in the game to start the ninth.
Jose Altuve started the inning with a single to center.
Michael Brantley flied to center before Yuli Gurriel struck out.
Aaron Boone then went to the mound and an animated Cole talked his way into staying in the game to face Yordan Alvarez. Cole fanned Alvarez to end it, throwing a career-high 129 pitches in the process for the complete-game shutout in a throwback performance.
Pitching on extended five days’ rest, Cole brushed off his recent struggles — he allowed nine earned runs in 8 ¹/₃ innings in his previous two outings — by dominating the Astros.
Cole gave up just three hits and a pair of walks, while striking out 12 — his highest total since he also fanned 12 in a win at Tampa Bay on May 12.
He retired the first nine batters he faced before back-to-back walks to Altuve and Brantley to start the bottom of the fourth.
Following a visit from pitching coach Matt Blake, Cole struck out Gurriel and got Alvarez to hit into a double play.
Cole didn’t allow a hit until Abraham Toro dunked a ball into center with one out in the fifth.
Toro stole second as Cole whiffed Myles Straw for the second out of the inning. Cole then got Martin Maldonado to ground out.
The victory was the Yankees’ fourth in five games against the first-place Astros this season and their fifth in six games overall following their three-game losing streak.
Judge added some spice to the game as he rounded the bases following his two-out homer off Zack Greinke in the third.
As Judge approached third base, he tugged at the front of his jersey — an apparent dig at Altuve, who famously grabbed his jersey frantically after his walk-off homer in Game 6 of the ALCS in 2019, when it has been speculated the Astros second baseman was wearing a buzzer. An MLB investigation showed no evidence that was the case.
This series was the Yankees’ first visit to Houston since that playoff loss.
Following the 2019 season, news of Houston’s sign-stealing scheme from 2017 — when the Astros also sent the Yankees home in the playoffs — became public.
Judge has been vocal in his criticism of the Astros since then and said last week he still hasn’t spoken to Altuve since the 2019 playoffs.
While the bit of revenge might be nice, Cole’s bounce back is more important, as the Yankees try to shake off a disappointing first half that has left them buried in fourth place in the AL East for much of the season.
Cole had allowed 10 homers in his previous six starts, when he pitched to a 5.24 ERA, with his overall ERA jumping from 1.78 to 2.91, after MLB cracked down on pitchers using sticky substances.
The righty restored some order Saturday, though his spin rate still was down from where it had been earlier in the season.
Greinke lasted just four innings, despite allowing just the homer by Judge.
Cristian Javier took over to start the fifth and pitched three scoreless innings to keep it a one-run game.
DJ LeMahieu led off the top of the eighth with a single against Ryne Stanek. He moved to second on a dribbler by Judge. Stanek then threw a 1-1 fastball right at Luke Voit’s head. Voit barely got out of the way and eventually walked, but Giancarlo Stanton grounded into a double play to end the inning.
Business News Governmental News Finance News
Need Your Help Today. Your $1 can change life.