NEW YORK – Strip away everything else and you’re left with Gerrit Cole grooving a fastball that Alex Verdugo destroyed.
“The long ball is definitely something that hurts him,’’ said manager Aaron Boone, after the Yankees’ 5-4 win against the Red Sox, on a Friday night where Aaron Judge stayed at 60 home runs and Cole and Boone were ejected.
“We’re trying to dive into that as much as we can, trying to stay a little unpredictable.’’
There was absolutely nothing unpredictable about the 99-mph 2-2 heater that Verdugo launched for a game-tying, three-run homer in the sixth.
It followed a close 1-2, 98-mph fastball that plate umpire Brian Knight correctly called a ball. Cole thought it was strike three, inning over.
“As a catcher, you want that pitch,’’ said Jose Trevino, a terrific framer, who tried to raise it for a strike.
After Verdugo’s blast made it 4-4, Cole struck out JD Martinez then stormed toward Knight, pointing and shouting and earning his first career ejection.
Boone was quickly tossed, trying to intervene.
Gerrit Cole was tossed on his way to the dugout in the middle of the 6th inning
A 1-2 pitch to Alex Verdugo earlier in the inning was called a ball. Verdugo then hit a game-tying three-run home run.pic.twitter.com/WrYBtGXwHQ
— Yankees Videos (@snyyankees) September 24, 2022
"An emotional moment,’’ Cole said quietly. “I’m just a competitor, I’m just upset.’’
Before the ruckus, many in the sellout crowd – 47,346 fans, hoping to see Judge (1-for-4, single) tie Roger Maris’ franchise and AL single-season home run record – were in the process of booing Cole back to the dugout.
Yankees Universe can justifiably be concerned about Cole’s penchant for the long ball ruining a big October start and leading to more postseason heartbreak.
At least Cole doesn’t have to face the last-place Red Sox again, who have tormented him across five starts (nine homers, a 5.59 ERA over 29 innings).
“It’s stunning that they hit his mistakes in the seats this year,’’ said Boone, including Tommy Pham’s first-inning homer to right. “He was so good tonight, that’s what makes it tough.’’
Cole has given up 31 home runs in 31 starts. After last Sunday’s two-homer game at Milwaukee, Cole said he’s still “processing that process’’ of limiting the long ball.
60+ homers and a Triple Crown?: Aaron Judge's epic season defies his MLB era
Aaron Judge home run watch: Tracking the Yankees slugger in 2022
Late Friday night, Cole didn’t know if he had to go “all the way back to the drawing board. Felt like we made some good strides today,’’ including “a step forward’’ in the quality of his stuff.
Cole struck out eight Red Sox and raised his MLB-leading total to 244, four behind Ron Guidry’s club record of 248 set in 1978.
That part of Cole’s start is what Boone chose to focus on.
“I thought he was as dialed in as you could be, I thought his body language was great all night.’’
But Cole was in a crouched position for a long moment as Verdugo’s shot landed over the right-center field wall, and a minute later the Yankees’ ace was blind with anger at Knight.
“We were frustrated a bit from an offensive perspective (with Knight) based on the chatter I was listening to,’’ Cole said about the short fuse that led to his ejection.
After Trevino’s go-ahead single in the eighth helped the Yankees win their fifth straight, taking their magic number down to four to win the AL East, Cole was more introspective.
Any anger should have been directed at the heart-of-the-plate fastball to Verdugo, anyway.
“The damage there is hard to swallow, but at the same time, there were some good things as well,’’ said Cole, on a night when Yankees fans hoped to see home run history and expected better from their $36 million ace.
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole ejected after he screams at umpire