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Yankees ace Gerrit Cole's strikeout-to-walk numbers are startling: 78 Ks, three BBs

Gerrit Cole #45 of the New York Yankees

Gerrit Cole #45 of the New York Yankees reacts during the sixth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on May 12, 2021 in St Petersburg, Florida.  Credit: Getty Images/Douglas P. DeFelice

BALTIMORE — The numbers have grown more and more ridiculous with each Gerrit Cole outing.

There are a myriad of statistics to choose from, but the righthander’s strikeouts-to-walks ratio probably is as good a place to start as any.

Twelve strikeouts in eight innings of the Yankees' 1-0 victory over the Rays on Wednesday night gave Cole 78 strikeouts and three walks in 52 2/3 innings this season.

Cole issued a leadoff walk to Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in the second inning of his third start of the season on April 12 against the Blue Jays in Dunedin. Since then he has struck out 56 and walked none in 39 1/3 innings.

"There will be," Cole said afterward with a slight smile, "a walk at some point."

Without question, that is true. Then again, the way he's throwing, it doesn’t seem as if that will happen anytime soon.

"The guy is special," said Rays manager Kevin Cash, whose team avoided a three-game sweep with Thursday’s 9-1 victory. "You've got to take advantage of every little thing that's presented when he pitches. You've got to be like perfect on the other side to give yourself a chance to win."

Cole has not presented many of those opportunities. The righthander is 5-1 with a 1.37 ERA, including 3-0 with a 0.96 ERA and a 0.57 WHIP in his last four starts, with 39 strikeouts and zero walks in 28 innings.

Wednesday marked Cole’s third game this season in which he did not allow a run or a walk and recorded at least 12 strikeouts, which tied a major league single-season record. He joined Pedro Martinez (three times in 2000) and Sandy Koufax (three in 1965) as the only pitchers to have three such games in a season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

There’s more. Much more.

Cole’s five starts this season with at least 10 strikeouts and no walks are the most by a Yankee in a single season, breaking the record of four set by Mike Mussina in 2001. According to Elias, his 78 strikeouts through his first eight starts are the most by any Yankees pitcher in his first eight starts of a season, surpassing Bob Turley’s 72 in 1965.

Cole has allowed two or fewer earned runs in each of his last 12 regular- season starts (since Sept. 5, 2020), tied for the longest stretch by a Yankees starting pitcher. He joined Whitey Ford, who also turned in a 12-game streak from Aug. 10-Sept. 28, 1963.

The run has had players on opposing teams, and his own team, shaking their heads at times in admiration.

"It’s not like he has three or four good games and then a subpar game or a letdown," said Corey Kluber, who has a pretty impressive resume himself as a two-time winner of the American League Cy Young Award in his time in Cleveland. "It’s pretty much every time out there he’s doing something historic or is on the cusp of being historic. Raising that level of excellence each time out is what’s most impressive to me."

Cole's performance Wednesday night — and the overall gaudy numbers — were overshadowed a bit, but only a bit, by the COVID-19 outbreak among the Yankees' coaching and support staff this week (with Gleyber Torres being added to that list Thursday).

Domingo German, Saturday night’s scheduled starter, pays attention when Cole is on the mound.

"I try not to miss a minute of it," German said Friday through his interpreter. "When he’s on the mound and he’s a facing a team that you’re getting ready to face, there’s a lot of things you can learn. For me, I just want to stay locked in, watching everything and not miss a minute."

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