Thursday, December 9 2021
Gerrit Cole walks off mound with head down vs. Indians

Gerrit Cole walks off mound with head down vs. Indians

Gerrit Cole didn’t want any part of the suggestion that he was gutting it out through a hamstring injury, and all we can do is take him at his word.

After another substandard performance on Wednesday night, the Yankees ace shook off a question about whether he was 100 percent healthy before I even got it out. If he’s being a hero, he doesn’t want to reveal it.

Whatever the cause, Cole’s fastball suddenly lacks life, his results have slipped badly from their previous Cy Young form, and he’s giving the Yankees an unexpected source of Wild Card game agita.

Can you imagine if the team, having fought so hard to reach that game, ends up going home because its ace lays an egg?

Cole left his start against the Toronto Blue Jays on September 7 with the hamstring injury. He missed one game against the Mets, and returned a few days after the Subway Series to face the Baltimore Orioles. He has a 6.35 ERA in the four-game stretch that began with that win over the Orioles.

On Wednesday, with the chance to essentially bury the Blue Jays in the wild card race, Cole died quickly by the fastball. He surrendered four extra base hits to the first nine Toronto batters, all on fastballs.

He ended up allowing five runs in six innings, though the final one was the result of another outfield misplay by Joey Gallo, who failed to take charge of a popup that dropped between him and Gio Urshela. Cole did improve as the night went on.

Velocity was not the issue, as he was sitting 97 mph and touching 100. But if you watched closely, you could see that the fastball lacked the late life and rise that if often possesses, and that Cole induced just three swings-and-misses on the heater.

Manager Aaron Boone explained it as Cole trying to ‘“tunnel” his pitches to spots on the corners, and having it “leak” into too many swing paths.

Sep 24, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Gerrit Cole (45) delivers against the Boston Red Sox during the first inning at Fenway Park.Sep 24, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Gerrit Cole (45) delivers against the Boston Red Sox during the first inning at Fenway Park.

Sep 24, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Gerrit Cole (45) delivers against the Boston Red Sox during the first inning at Fenway Park.

Cole said, fairly, that the Blue Jays’ game plan turned out to be a bad match for his — he was pounding the zone with fastballs early in counts and Toronto was looking for them.

But he went on to add that “It’s not to say that if I don’t execute my pitches better, maybe there’s a better result.”

Cole has one of the best fastballs in the sport. At his best, he can blow it by most hitters who are looking for it.

I asked a former pitcher how, generally speaking, a sore hamstring would impact his fastball. “Max effort would be compromised,” the pitcher said.

Meaning: A lingering injury of that nature could impact the life on the pitch. It could flatten it out, lead the pitcher to miss spots and allow more home runs.

General fatigue could have the same effect, and Cole denied experiencing that, too. Maybe this is a blip, and he truly is fine. Maybe he’ll win on short rest on Sunday to secure home field advantage for the Wild Card game, or on Tuesday to send his team to the ALDS.

But it seems only fitting for this whack-a-mole Yankees season that their sure-thing pitcher feels like a question right now. How else could it be during this tense final week of the weirdest season in years?

Source: Yahoo Sports

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