Every game is kind of a must-win for the Yankees right now. So what does that make the games that Gerrit Cole starts? Must-must-wins?
Cole addressed that topic before the Yankees’ dismal 11-3 loss to Cleveland on Saturday at Yankee Stadium.
"I try to win every game that I pitch," said Cole, who will start Sunday’s series finale. "It's not any different than what I normally do. But at the same time, even if we win every game that I pitch and we lose all the other games, we're not going to make it. So we’ve got to do it as a team."
Again, that was before Cole knew the Yankees were going to get banged around on Saturday. Sunday’s big game now is a big-big game. But Cole said he has to treat it as just another step on the way to a postseason spot and isn’t thinking past it.
"Cleveland's pretty much the only thought right now," he said. "It's just too important. You just get locked into this. I don't even know if it's like a conscious thing. It's just you get focused. You have no choice, and the dynamic around here helps, right? Everyone else is doing the same thing. We're just trying to win one game and get to the next."
Sunday will be Cole’s second start since he left a Sept. 7 outing with left hamstring tightness. On Tuesday, he allowed one run in five innings in a 7-2 victory in Baltimore. Cole said he wore a big wrap on his hamstring on Tuesday but doesn’t think he will need it on Sunday.
The Yankees (83-66) are 1 1/2 games behind the Red Sox (85-65), who hold the American League's first wild card, and a half-game behind the Blue Jays (83-65) for the second wild card.
Cole (15-7, 2.75 ERA) will be starting against rookie righthander Eli Morgan, who is 2-7 with a 6.03 ERA. With the situation the Yankees are in, he knows they need to win his game. He wants the ball and he wants that responsibility.
"I kind of think it's fun," he said. "If you get into October, the games are going to be the same way, the mentality is going to be the same way. You can challenge yourself to rise to the occasion. That's not trying to do too much, it's just trying to find a sweet spot. But we all owe it to ourselves to just take it one game at a time and not get ahead of ourselves. We'd like to be in a better position than we are, but we put in a lot of work to be in this position with the opportunity that we have, and if we continue to play in a way that we should, we should be pretty satisfied with how it all plays out."