TORONTO – Professionalism can be defined in a variety of ways in sports, and Gerrit Cole revealed his late Wednesday night.
After all but sealing his first Cy Young Award with a two-hit shutout of the Blue Jays, Cole was asked his thoughts on Aaron Judge – who hit two home runs in the 6-0 victory to bring his total to 37 in just 103 games.
Cole started with some gallows humor.
“Can we get some padding at Dodger Stadium?” Cole said, referencing the sprained right big toe injury Judge suffered June 3 in Los Angeles barreling through the bullpen door in right-center, which ended up costing the reigning American League MVP 42 games.
Cole, who improved to 15-4 with a league-low 2.63 ERA after recording his second complete game of the season in his final start, then took the answer in an unexpected direction.
Though the Yankees were officially eliminated from postseason contention just last Sunday, their fate in that regard became all but certain in mid-August after a horrendous 2-7 trip through Chicago (White Sox), Miami and Atlanta made a playoff spot a pipe dream at best. The week of Aug. 21 brought the start of the youth movement the Yankees committed to for the rest of the season when prospects Everson Pereira and Oswald Peraza were brought up from the minors. On Sept. 1 came catching prospect Austin Wells and, of course, the most hyped prospect of all, Jasson Dominguez.
It was around then, Cole said, that he and Judge began a series of discussions on how the two biggest stars in the clubhouse saw the rest of the season playing out and their roles in it.
“We’ve had conversations the last few weeks about continuing to set the tone for the young players trying to break in and finishing the season strong,” Cole said. “There really is a professional [obligation]. I’ve touched on this before - when you’re in a playoff race, it’s easy to get energy from the crowd, the stakes. But when you’re not, how do you [go about it]? Your effort should not change. And as a professional, when we walk out of the clubhouse [at Yankee Stadium] and slap the sign ‘Do your job,’ it has nothing to do with being in a postseason race or not. It has to do with showing up every single day.”
Cole certainly has done that to close the season, going 3-0 with a 1.03 ERA in five September starts.
Going into Thursday night, when the Yankees had a chance to complete a three-game sweep of a Blue Jays team desperately trying to hold on to a wild-card spot, Judge was hitting .295 with eight homers, 19 RBIs, 24 walks and a 1.115 OPS this month. The pair have helped the Yankees go an MLB-best 19-9 since Aug. 28, entering Thursday.
On Sunday, after the Yankees were eliminated, Judge provided his own version of Cole’s response when the prospect of him sitting the rest of the season to give his big toe a head-start on completely healing was broached.
“I’m planning on being out there,” Judge said. “There’s talk of being shut down, but I have to be out there. I’m a leader on this team and, especially with the young guys we have coming up, you have to show them you have to post, even if you’re not feeling good, not feeling great, you have to be out there every single day for your teammates. I’m going to be out there.”
That's also something Cole got to in his answer about the club’s first-year captain.
“This guy played through pain, this guy rehabbed for a long time,” Cole said. “I don’t know how he’s feeling now, he sure looks great, I can tell you that. And to see the culmination of numbers…He never gave an at-bat away, he never gave a pitch away, no matter how he was feeling. When you’re looking to a leader, those are the types of intangibles that you look for and the process that he has creates those numbers, along with his God-given gifts. But if he doesn’t work it hard every single day, you’re just not going to see that type of production and that’s what he does.”
Yanks fall in series finale
After shutting out the Blue Jays in the first two games of the series, the Yankees were on the other side of a goose egg in a 6-0 loss Thursday night. Luke Weaver, coming off last Friday’s start against Arizona when he threw 5 1/3 scoreless innings, allowed two runs and six hits against the Blue Jays (88-71), who remained in the second spot in the chase for the three AL wild card bids.
Both runs against Weaver came on solo homers - one by Daulton Varsho and the other by Matt Chapman. Cavan Biggio’s RBI single off Greg Weissert in the fifth made it 3-0 and Brandon Belt’s three-run homer in the sixth off Zach McAllister made it 6-0. The Yankees (81-78) were outhit, 13-7.
Righthander Yoendrys Gomez, a touted Yankees pitching prospect in recent years but also an injury-plagued one, made his big-league debut, striking out four and allowing a hit over the last two innings. Gomez, 23, was called up last weekend from Double-A Somerset.
Toronto righthander and former Met Chris Bassitt (16-8, 3.60) allowed five hits, a walk, and struck out 12 over 7 2/3 innings.