For all of his admitted obsessiveness about gathering as much data and information as possible, Gerrit Cole is the last person to overthink things on the mound.
The ace righthander improved to 3-0 with a 2.55 ERA in three starts as a Yankee Monday night at the Stadium, throwing six strong innings in a 6-3 victory over the Phillies.
A positive in and of itself, but there’s more.
Cole, who signed a record nine-year, $324 million free-agent contract last December, acknowledged not having his best stuff in any of his those three outings and that’s OK.
“I think there’s room for improvement still across the board,” Cole said afterward, all but shrugging. “With that said, with what we’ve had every time we’ve gone out, we’ve done a good job. So you can do as much work as you can in between [starts], but whatever you’ve got that day is what you’ve got that day, and you’ve got to figure it out. We’ve been doing a good job of that.”
And to Aaron Boone, that is what separates Cole from so many others – the pitcher has been more or less dominant without his dominant stuff.
“He’s got that kind of stuff where it can be a shutout, he’s going to hold teams down when he gets in those rolls on a given night where … he’s going to cut through no matter what the lineup is,” said Boone, whose team is slated to play the Phillies in a doubleheader Wednesday in Philadelphia. “You know that’s always possible. But I think what he’s showing you right now is just how good a pitcher he is. He’s kind of still finding his way a little bit. But I’m excited by where he’s at.”
Where Cole is at is a place few pitchers have been.
The last loss taken by the 29-year-old Cole was May 22 of last season when, as a member of the Astros, he fell to the White Sox. Since then Cole is 19-0 with a 1.86 ERA in 25 regular-season starts.
Cole’s 25-start undefeated streak is the fifth longest in MLB history. Only Roger Clemens (30 games from June 3, 1998, to June 1, 1999), Kris Medlen (28 games from May 31, 2009, to Sept. 30, 2012), Dave McNally (28 games from Sept. 22, 1968, to July 30, 1969) and Firpo Marberry (27 games from June 14, 1930, to July 25, 1931) have had longer undefeated streaks as a starter.
“He’s probably the best pitcher on the planet right now so I won’t put anything past him,” Boone said of just how long Cole can continue his unbeaten streak.
Cole has shied away from discussing the streak in depth, but the righthander has consistently praised Gary Sanchez after each start this season, praise that started in the spring when the pair first met.
“I think it’s going great,” Cole said of a relationship some thought might present challenges given Sanchez’s difficulties at times defensively. “We’re [splitting] up the preparation and the workload and the work beforehand. We’re kind of splitting the duties a little bit and then getting together and then getting on the same page. He’s always finding me in between innings, communicating about what pitches he liked and what not. He picked up on a couple tips in the batter’s box [Monday night], which I thought was really helpful.”
Cole has been even more impressed with Sanchez given the catcher’s struggles at the plate (2-for-25, 14 strikeouts) to start the season.
“He’s been on his game behind the dish, especially pitch calling and picking up some tips here and there,” Cole said. “It’s not easy to not take the offense out on the field. But as players, we all kind of understand that. It’s easy to rally around a guy that’s really taking pride in his defense even though he may be frustrated with how it’s going in the batter’s box.”