After Major League Baseball started to crack down in mid-June on pitchers using foreign substances, Gerrit Cole seemed lost. In his previous two starts, the Yankees pitcher had given up nine earned runs over eight and a third innings, including a brutal five-inning outing against the Red Sox in which he served up three dingers. Clearly something was off, but Cole found motivation Saturday night when he faced his old team, the Houston Astros. He threw a career-high 129 pitches to put together the kind of start that can signal a return to form: 12 strikeouts, three hits allowed, and a 1-0 complete game shutout.
Cole was feeling it so deeply that cameras caught him unloading on beleaguered Yankees manager Aaron Boone during a mound visit with two outs in the ninth. No matter what Boone said, Cole was not going to leave early. Speaking after the game, Cole admitted he wasn't fully sure what he did during that conversation: "I said the F word a lot, and I kind of just blacked out. I don’t really remember what I told him, to be honest."
At the time of Boone's mound visit, Cole had thrown 126 pitches. He was facing former teammate Yordan Alvarez, with a runner on base in a one-run game. There would have been plenty of justification for Boone to take out Cole, but the starter did not want to leave it up to a recently shaky Aroldis Chapman, or any other reliever. The pitch count was by that point irrelevant to Cole, and he'd have more time to recover anyway, as this was his last start before the All-Star break. He wanted to ride out the adrenaline. Via The Athletic:
“We already blew past the workload algorithm in like, the seventh, so might as well just go with what’s working,” Cole said. “I think I’ve thrown in the 120s before, it’s probably neither here nor there — plus or minus seven or eight pitches at that point.”
It wasn't certain that Cole would start Saturday's game, as he was ill the whole week and couldn't keep food down. He said he chugged about five liters of water prior to the start, and needed IV treatment while the team was in Seattle for the previous series. The combination of his recent struggles, an opportunity to beat his former team, and the lingering effects of his illness must have been a lot for Cole in that moment, but against Alvarez, he went for three straight fastballs to get the game-ending strikeout. In order, those pitches clocked in at 97, 99, and 99 mph. Damn.