Gerrit Cole is undoubtedly the ace of the New York Yankees rotation, but there was some speculation about whether he would be the team's Game 1 playoff starter in what has been an inconsistent season for the veteran hurler.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone put the speculation to rest during an appearance on The Show podcast with Joel Sherman and Jon Heyman of the New York Post, declaring the right-hander will be the Game 1 starter:
“Yeah, Cole would be. And we feel great about Nestor obviously too. And hopefully [Luis Severino] getting back here and getting a few starts under his belt here at the back end, put him in that mix too. We’ve got a couple weeks to go there and we’ve got to see how we get there and how we get in. Those things always affect how you line things up. But hopefully we’re in a position to line it up how we want.”
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Yankees manager Aaron Boone joined The Show with <a href="https://twitter.com/Joelsherman1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JoelSherman1</a> & <a href="https://twitter.com/JonHeyman?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JonHeyman</a>: Boone talks about Gerrit Cole's up and down season and him being the Yankees Game 1 starter in the playoffs<br><br>Apple: <a href="https://t.co/KWFl59A4dp">https://t.co/KWFl59A4dp</a><br>Spotify: <a href="https://t.co/BxBwNCMbTM">https://t.co/BxBwNCMbTM</a> <a href="https://t.co/skeXniLs55">pic.twitter.com/skeXniLs55</a>
Cole enters Tuesday's game against the Pittsburgh Pirates with a 12-7 record, 3.41 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 236 strikeouts in 182.1 innings across 30 starts. Those are respectable numbers for the five-time All-Star.
However, the 32-year-old has found himself struggling of late. In his last five starts dating back to an Aug. 26 win over the Oakland Athletics, Cole has given up eight home runs, including five over his last two starts alone.
In total, Cole has allowed 29 home runs on the season, and his HR/9 rate is 1.43. The 29 blasts are tied for the second-most in his career, and his HR/9 rate would be the second-worst of his career.
It's certainly not where the Yankees want Cole to be heading into October, and Boone previously told reporters that his ace was "frustrated" that seemingly every mistake he has made has led to a home run.
"I’m processing it, and to be honest, I don’t really have a good answer for you," Cole said when asked about why he's given up so many home runs this year, per WFAN Sports Radio 101.9 FM. "In some cases, it’s kind of remarkable. But I need to be better."
Cole has been New York's ace since he put pen to paper on a record-breaking nine-year, $324 million deal before the 2020 season, and he has started every Game 1 possible for the Pinstripes.
In 2020, he started Game 1 of the American League Wild Card Series against the Cleveland Guardians. In seven innings, he allowed six hits and two runs on 105 pitches and struck out 13 in a 12-3 win.
In Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Tampa Bay Rays that year, he allowed six hits and three runs on 97 pitches while striking out eight in six innings. The Yankees won that game 9-3.
The only Game 1 Cole lost came in the 2021 American League Wild Card Series against the Boston Red Sox when he allowed three runs and four hits on 50 pitches in two innings in a 6-2 defeat.
Considering his track record in the postseason, it's no surprise Boone is confident in Cole as his Game 1 starter.