Yankees’ Cole demands ball, completes 3-hit gem vs Astros

AP Sports

New York Yankees starting pitcher Gerrit Cole reacts after striking out Houston Astros’ Yordan Alvarez to end a baseball game, Saturday, July 10, 2021, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

HOUSTON (AP) — Two days ago, when a nasty illness had Gerrit Cole hooked up to an IV, New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone hardly imagined he’d get an earful from his ace as he campaigned to get the final out Saturday night against the Houston Astros.

Boone didn’t even know if Cole would be able to make the start.

Not only did he start — he finished, spinning a three-hitter in a 1-0 victory over Houston.

Cole demanded on the mound that Boone let him get the final out, then struck out Yordan Alvarez with a 99 mph fastball on his career-high 129th pitch to cap victory.

“I said the f-word a lot and I kind of just blacked out,” Cole said about the mound meeting. “I don’t really remember what I told him, to be honest.”

Boone gave the edited version of the conversation and added that Alvarez would have been Cole’s last hitter regardless of the outcome.

“He just wanted it,” Boone said. “He was like, ‘Let’s go.'”

Aaron Judge hit a solo homer and Cole did the rest for his fifth career complete game and third shutout. His only other nine-inning shutout was May 4, 2018 against Arizona while he pitched for Houston.

“Probably one of the great ones I’ve ever seen, certainly in a regular-season setting,” Boone said.

The AL West-leading Astros, who entered this series having been shut out just once all season, were blanked for a second straight game after losing 4-0 in the opener Friday night.

Houston manager Dusty Baker said Cole reminded him of a certain Hall of Famer as he closed it out.

“He reached back at the end,” Baker said. “That was like Tom Seaver. At the end, he ditched the rest of his pitches and relied on his fastball, the high fastball.”

Cole (9-4), who pitched for the Astros from 2018-2019, tied a season low in hits and struck out 12. His 129 pitches are the most in the majors this season, surpassing Trevor Bauer’s 126, and the most since Oakland’s Mike Fiers needed 131 in his no-hitter against Cincinnati on May 7, 2019.

Cole’s performance came after he battled an unspecified illness this week that left him “miserable.” When asked to provide details, he warned against it.

“You don’t want to know what I was going through,” he said. “It was gross. Leave it at that.”

Cole beat Houston for the first time in his third career try, giving him at least one win against every team in the majors.

All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman began warming for the Yankees during the eighth inning but never got in the game.

Jose Altuve singled to start the ninth for Houston, and Michael Brantley battled through a 10-pitch at-bat before flying out. Yuli Gurriel struck out on what he thought was a checked swing, and Boone visited the mound contemplating a pitching change with Cole at 126 pitches.

Cole berated Boone when he got to the mound, shouting that he wanted to face Alvarez. Boone relented, Cole punched out Alvarez on three pitches and then the Yankees All-Star let out an enormous holler.

“I just felt like he was our best chance to get through there at the end,” Boone said.

There were two outs in the third when Judge connected off Zack Greinke (8-3) on his soaring shot to left field. The slugger then provided a bit of entertainment on his trip around the bases.

Judge pulled his jersey together with both hands as he rounded third. It was a gesture that some interpreted as a reference to Altuve gripping his jersey to keep teammates from ripping it off during the celebration after his game-ending homer in Game 6 of the 2019 AL Championship Series against the Yankees.

After Houston’s sign-stealing scandal was uncovered, some speculated that Altuve didn’t want his jersey pulled off because he was concealing a buzzer that helped in the plot. The allegation was never proven, and Altuve said he did it because he was shy and that he got in trouble with his wife when his jersey was ripped off before.

Judge, who finished second to Altuve in AL MVP voting in 2017, was asked if he was sending a message to the opposing dugout with the move.

“No, whenever they keep the roof closed here it’s a little chilly,” he said with a smile. “I was just telling my teammates to button up a little bit.”

When asked directly if he was referencing Altuve, he laughed and said: “Everyone’s welcome to their own opinion.”

Cole bounced back after permitting four runs in 3 1/3 innings for his shortest start since 2016 against the Mets his last time out. That came after he yielded eight hits and six runs — both season highs — in five innings of a 9-2 loss to Boston on June 27.

Greinke lasted just four innings, allowing three hits and one run in his first loss since May 25, snapping a four-game winning streak. Baker said he pulled him early because of a sore right shoulder.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Yankees: Boone said LHP Zack Britton (left hamstring strain) is expected to be activated on Thursday after being out since June 26. … INF/OF Miguel Andújar was placed on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to Wednesday, with a strained left wrist. … RHP Jonathan Loaisiga was added to the injured list due to health and safety protocols. … RHP Albert Abreu and RHP Booke Kriske were recalled from Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes-Barre to take Andújar and Loaisiga’s spots on the roster.

Astros: Baker said SS Carlos Correa, who was placed on the injured list due to health and safety protocols on Friday, was still ill on Saturday. “He’s not good,” Baker said. “He’s sick.” Baker said he didn’t have any other details about his illness but said that he was resting at home. … 3B Alex Bregman (strained left quadriceps) took batting practice on the field Saturday and should be ready for a rehabilitation assignment next week.

UP NEXT

New York RHP Jameson Taillon (4-4, 5.05 ERA) will oppose LHP Framber Valdez (5-1, 2.86) when the Yankees look to complete the sweep Sunday.

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