The Yankees began their final nine-game stretch of the regular season on Friday night, slugging their way past the Boston Red Sox for an 8-3 win.
Not only did the Yankees bats come to life, but they also had the luxury of handing the ball to their ace on Friday night, as Gerrit Cole held the Red Sox to three runs over his 6.0 innings of work.
It may not have been an electric 15-strkeout performance like Cole had earlier this season, but after being staked to a three-run lead in the first, Cole did not allow a run until Rafael Devers got to him for a three-run homer in the sixth.
After the game, manager Aaron Boone was pleased with the way Cole worked through Boston’s dangerous lineup.
“They’re a really good offensive team. I thought he navigated it well,” said Boone. “He kind of tried to stay away from some slug or some momentum-type innings for them to get back in. I thought he did a really good job of that, especially in that first inning after walking the leadoff hitter. He gets out of that inning with 10, 11 pitches by putting the ball on the ground a couple of times, good double play turned behind him.
“So, I thought he did a good job of staying away from trouble until obviously Devers put a pretty good swing on one. But I thought overall, he pitched really well for us.”
Boone later added: “Any time he’s out there, you always like that, obviously. He’s a great pitcher, he’s our ace, he’s our horse. For him to go out and kind of set the tone for us especially after our offense put up a three-spot there in the first inning, I thought he did a great job of avoiding those momentum innings. There’s a very short list of people you’d rather hand the ball to.”
The Yankees gave Cole three runs of support before he ever walked onto the mound at Fenway Park. And by the time he took the mound in the third, that lead had ballooned to 7-0.
That big lead allowed Cole to attack Boston hitters, though he always kept in the back of his mind just how quick this Red Sox offense can turn things around.
“It was super nice. It was really good for us to strike in the game quick. It allowed us to challenge some guys knowing that a solo home run still holds the lead early,” Cole said. “That was really big for us.
“In this case, it maybe makes you slightly more comfortable, but this offense obviously can strike. Three runs is super manageable for them. So, you keep that in the back of your mind as a pitcher and you know your boys are on it, but you still at the end of the day have to go out and make really good pitches, and I think we did that for the most part tonight.”
With Friday’s win, the Yankees are now one game back of the Red Sox for the first Wild Card spot. If the season ended right now, the two teams would meet in the one-game playoff at Fenway Park.
And while Cole is all but guaranteed to be on the mound for the Yankees for wherever that Wild Card game is, he’s not focused on that just yet.
“Certainly it’s the highest goal that we can achieve, so that’s where our sites are set,” Cole said on trying to take the top spot. “For me personally, I haven’t quite gotten to the point where I’m really pondering that. I still have some work to do and one, maybe two more starts, so I think that ideally we would like to win, and that’s what we’re shooting for so we can host the game.
“That’s where our goals are set, but at the end of the day whether it’s here, Toronto, New York, we’re going to have to play really good baseball regardless of who’s cheering us on, but that’s what we’re shooting for.”