The Yankees had two wins in their last nine games before Friday’s doubleheader against Baltimore. But thanks to big efforts from Gerrit Cole in Game 1 and Luke Voit in Game 2, they swept the Orioles at the Stadium.
Cole picked the perfect opportunity to make his best start of the season, pitching a two-hitter with nine strikeouts and a walk in a 6-0 Game 1 victory. The Yankees — who had five home runs in the doubleheader — received a pair of three-run homers from Voit in a 10-1 win in Game 2.
The eighth-seeded Yankees (24-21), whose lead over Baltimore had been cut to a half-game after a 5-15 stretch, moved 3 1⁄2 games ahead of the Orioles and Tigers (both 20-24). They also moved within a half-game of second-place Toronto (24-20) in the AL East after falling three games behind the Blue Jays earlier in the week.
“It was a great start to this homestand . . . kind of getting off the schneid that last day in Buffalo [against Toronto] was big,” Aaron Boone said. “ . . . For Gerrit to go out for us and set the tone and Masa [Masahiro Tanaka] to back it right up and the bats come through, you know, this was an important day for us, but time to get past it and another big one starting [Saturday].”
“We know we’re a lot better team than this,” Voit said. “It’s almost not a bad thing we went through that rut, because I think that shows that good teams have to figure out ways to get through it, and we did, even though it was very frustrating. It’s a good time for us to get hot.”
In the opener, DJ LeMahieu led off the first inning with a home run on a 1-and-2 pitch and Brett Gardner and Kyle Higashioka added two-run homers, all off Alex Cobb, as the Yankees took a 5-0 lead in the second.
Gardner’s homer followed a single by Voit and gave the Yankees a 3-0 lead seven pitches into the game. Higashioka’s homer in the second followed a single by Mike Tauchman.
“When you get that kind of run support, that’s your job,” Cole said. “You got to get the ball over the plate early.”
In his previous four starts, he had allowed eight home runs in 22 2⁄3 innings. In his last three starts before Friday, he was 0-3 with a 5.63 ERA.
“I thought we had good command,” Cole said. “We made smart pitches, we mixed up stuff well. I had good stuff and finished it out this time.”
Cole had all four of his pitches — fastball, slider, knuckle-curve and changeup — working throughout the afternoon. His fastball was in the range of 96 to 98 mph even late as he reached 114 pitches.
“He was mixing all four pitches really well,” Higashioka said. “When you have a guy like that with that kind of stuff that can throw any pitch in any situation, it’s always going to be a tough day for opposing hitters.”
Cole didn’t allow a hit until there were two outs in the fifth, when Hanser Alberto lined a single to right. He said of his recent stretch, “It’s frustrating. I was happy to be able to finish it for me personally, but also for the balance of the bullpen for the rest of the day, and so it’s nice to put a bow on it.”
The Yankees’ bats helped them put a bow on the sweep.
Recent Yankee-killer DJ Stewart homered off Tanaka in the top of the first, but in the bottom of the inning, Gleyber Torres’ RBI single and Miguel Andujar’s two-run double helped the Yankees take a 4-1 lead.
Voit drove in the next six runs with three-run shots off Abner Wojciechowski in the fourth and fifth.
Voit tied Mike Trout with a major league-leading 16 homers and has 36 RBIs. “The guy’s the face of baseball, the best player in the game,” Voit said. “It’s pretty cool to have your name next to him.’’
“He’s been great,” Boone said of Voit. “What an impact performer he’s been. I’m glad he enjoyed his day off yesterday so we could get him back out there twice . . . . Where would we be without him?”
Voit was seen grimacing while running out the first home run. “I want to be out there,” he said. “I’m going to do everything possible to make sure I can play. My foot’s been bothering me the last couple of weeks, but I just had to get it re-taped and it felt a lot better . . . I got to be out there with the boys and I’ll do everything I can to grind through it and do everything I can do to help us win.”
Cole, who turned 30 on Sept. 8, reflected on the importance of Friday’s date — the 19th anniversary of Sept. 11.
“I’m actually thrilled we have a doubleheader, because I’m wearing the FDNY in the second game,” said Cole, who wore an NYPD hat during his start. “I wasn’t going to switch hats out during the game, but I did want to wear both.
“Hopefully we honored the people that passed away that day,” he said. “We honored the people who worked to save lives that day: the NYPD and the FDNY. This is a very somber day, but hopefully we were able to provide some joy for the people who are having a rough day today in New York.”