ARLINGTON, Texas – It is safe to say few, if anyone, saw what happened to Gerrit Cole Monday night coming.
The righthander entered his start against the struggling Rangers among the best pitchers in the sport, 5-1 with a 1.37 ERA and 78 strikeouts compared to three walks in 52 2⁄3 innings.
The Rangers came in 18-24 and riding a six-game losing streak in which they had been outscored 33-17.
But Cole, after striking out the side in the first, would go on to get summarily tattooed during a 5-2 loss by the Yankees, allowing five runs and seven hits — both season highs — in five innings-plus, dropping his record to 5-2 with a 2.03 ERA. He allowed two homers after allowing a total of three over his first eight starts.
"I don’t have an answer for that," Cole said afterward. "One of those nights I just wasn’t as crisp."
And the Rangers, even with their offensive issues from the previous week took advantage, part of an aggressive approach they took into the night.
"We were going into the game looking to hit," Ranger manager Chris Woodward said, according to the Dallas Morning News. "This guy doesn't walk too many guys, he's got elite stuff. We know he's got a good fastball. I thought our guys did a good job of getting on the fastball, maybe forcing him to use different pitches. I think, overall, we took advantage of the few mistakes [Cole] made and made him pay for it."
That actually started in the first when Willie Calhoun led off with a double down the rightfield line. After Cole struck out three straight to end the inning, Adolis Garcia led off the second and, down 0-and-2, went after a 97-mph fastball and crushed it to right for his 11th homer, tying it at 1-1.
That was the first of three straight seeds hit by the Rangers, who with one out in the second, after Jose Trevino’s RBI single made it 3-1, already had accumulated five hits, matching, at that point, the most hits allowed by Cole in a start this season.
Aaron Boone theorized the Rangers, knowing exactly who they were facing, won a guessing game at times – anticipating a certain pitch in a given situation and essentially swinging as hard as they could at it, hoping the pitch was a little off. On this night, more than a few of Cole’s pitches were.
"Being on the other side, when you're facing an ace as a hitter, you tend to get a little more up for that and a little more ready for that and you're selling out on some on some mistakes," Boone said. "Because you know if he's on top of his game, you're probably in some trouble and he's going to have his way with you. So you're probably a little more inclined to sell out in some situations for things you might be looking for. That happens from time to time when you're facing an elite pitcher, and they were able to take advantage of a couple of mistakes there, especially in that one inning."
For his part Cole, who set a major-league record by striking out 61 batters between walks before issuing one to Joey Gallo in the third inning to end the streak, was clearly disappointed in the outing. But it was equally clear the ace wouldn’t be dwelling on it either.
"I threw some good curveballs, I threw some terrible ones; I threw a good slider and I’d throw a bad one," Cole said. "Threw a good fastball (and a bad one). Just wasn't stringing three, four or five pitches together in a row that I really liked. And they were really on (them)."