DUNEDIN, Fla. — Into the fifth inning Monday night, Gerrit Cole must have felt a bit like Jacob deGrom.
The Yankees’ ace allowed a run early and then settled into his familiar dominant self, but he still trailed as the game entered the middle innings.
Rougned Odor broke up Blue Jays lefthander Robbie Ray’s no-hit bid with one out in the fifth and Kyle Higashioka, seemingly reassuming his role as Cole’s personal catcher, followed with a monster two-run homer that put the Yankees ahead to stay in a 3-1 win at TD Ballpark.
Higashioka added his second homer of the night in the eighth, a solo blast off Ryan Borucki.
"There’s going to be games where Gary [Sanchez] catches him, but as the schedule unfolds, a lot of times it’s going to make sense to get Higgy in there," Aaron Boone said, all but telegraphing Higashioka as Cole’s personal catcher most of the rest of the way. "I certainly like the combination . . . but you’ll see Gary in there a lot, too."
Cole, who retired 15 straight to end his outing, allowed one run and three hits in six innings in which he threw 98 pitches. His final pitch of the night, a called third strike on Randal Grichuk, came in at 99 mph.
"The most satisfying part was after kind of a rough first inning or two, we got into a groove and kept them to no runs after that," said Higashioka, who backed Cole with three of the Yankees’ seven homers in a 13-2 win over Toronto last Sept. 16. "Credit to Gerrit. He really locked it in."
Cole, who is 2-0 with a 1.47 ERA, struck out eight and walked one. He has struck out 29 and walked three in 18 1⁄3 innings.
"Honestly, I had no clue," Cole said of the streak of retired batters. "They [the Blue Jays] were on it tonight. I wasn’t afforded the ability to take any pitches off. Certainly was a bit of a tightrope walk early. Just try to keep blinders on and focus on what we were doing."
Justin Wilson retired the side in order in the seventh and Darren O’Day ran the streak to 20 straight in the eighth before adding some drama.
Marcus Semien singled to left and Bo Bichette walked, bringing Vlad Guerrero Jr. to the plate as the go-ahead run. O’Day, 38, who played with Guerrero Jr.’s Hall of Fame father in Anaheim and Texas, struck him out.
Aroldis Chapman pitched around Grichuk’s leadoff double in the ninth for his first save.
Cole struck out 13 Orioles in seven scoreless innings last Tuesday, but he was not as sharp at the start of Monday’s game.
Bichette singled with one out in the first and went to third on a nice piece of hitting by Guerrero, who bounced a full-count fastball through the hole between first and second for a single. Grichuk’s groundout to short gave the Blue Jays a 1-0 lead, which concluded the highlight portion of the night for Toronto.
The Yankees (5-5) had a slow go of it against Ray through 4 1⁄3 innings, managing three walks and no hits. The first hit came with one out in the fifth when Odor, playing in his second game as a Yankee, ripped a single past Guerrero at first. Higashioka then hit an 0-and-2 fastball over the right-centerfield wall. His second homer came on a 1-and-2 pitch and cleared the wall in left-center.
"He’s locked in right now, tough guy to pitch to right now," Cole said with a laugh. "He’s red-hot." An apt description for the battery as a whole Monday night.