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Gerrit Cole used a wild weekend in the Bronx to regain his command.
Cole, the Yankees’ ace right-hander, held the Cleveland Guardians scoreless on Sunday afternoon, rebounding from an outing Tuesday against Detroit in which he walked five batters across an inning and two-thirds. Cole was far more efficient against Cleveland, striking out nine hitters and walking only one across six and two-thirds innings.
Cole’s outing, along with a balanced lineup and some porous Cleveland defense, helped the Yankees secure a 10-2 win and their first sweep of the season. Sunday was the first time since opening day that the Yankees scored at least six runs in a game.
“I haven’t been kidding when I’ve said I think it’s about to pop, and I think he’s really close,” Yankees Manager Aaron Boone said of Cole, who was aided by his cutter Sunday. “I thought he was more aggressive in the zone today, which allows him to gain that leverage more often and then pitch off of that. We need him to be good for us obviously this year, and that’s the expectation. I’m glad it happened today.”
Boone added: “He wants to do his thing, and there’s that pressure of breaking through and having this kind of outing. But I also feel like it’s been right there on the surface, and I haven’t felt like he’s in a bad spot mentally.”
The Yankee Stadium day game was easily Cole’s strongest start of the season. He took a 6.35 E.R.A. into the series finale and had allowed three homers in his first two starts before the brief Detroit disaster. On Sunday, however, he joined his rotation mates in stifling Cleveland and emerged with a 4.00 E.R.A.
Cole’s runless outing came a day after the left-hander Nestor Cortes held the Guardians to two earned runs over six and one-third innings. Cortes struck out eight, giving him 20 strikeouts over his last 11⅓ innings. In Friday’s series opener, the right-hander Jameson Taillon allowed only one run over five innings before Michael King struck out eight over three innings of relief.
Cole heaped praise upon New York’s catchers, Jose Trevino and Kyle Higashioka, for deploying an effective game plan against Cleveland’s hitters all weekend.
“Everybody was in a good spot based on our preparation,” said Cole, who had his first game throwing to Trevino on Sunday. “The continuity between the guys sharing information and the glue kind of being the catchers passing that along in terms of our reads and how we’re attacking guys. High-level communication leads to a lot of certainty when a guy drops a sign down. We were executing a lot of good pitches, more good pitches than not.”
The weekend was also a chance for the Yankees’ offense to correct course after the Tigers shut them out in Thursday’s series finale. Aaron Judge took on the brunt of the work in the opener against the Guardians, belting two opposite-field shots in a 4-1 victory.
On Saturday, Josh Donaldson proceeded to go deep, crushing a go-ahead homer in the seventh inning. Yankees reliever Chad Green surrendered the lead after Cleveland catcher Austin Hedges hit a momentum-changing home run of his own, but the Yankees fought back in the ninth. A red-hot Isiah Kiner-Falefa tied the game at four in the bottom of the ninth with a two-out, two-strike double. The next batter, Gleyber Torres, singled to right, cementing a 5-4 win.
But the walk-off win was marred by multiple incidents between Yankees fans and Guardians outfielders.
Chaos first ensued when the rookie Steven Kwan crashed into the left-field wall while chasing after Kiner-Falefa’s double. Kwan was left with a scraped face and seemed shaken up. As Kwan recovered, center fielder Myles Straw took issue with some of the comments Yankees fans directed at Kwan. Straw responded by climbing the outfield fence for a face-to-face confrontation with the rowdy crowd.
The situation only escalated. After Torres hit his game-ending single to right, fans began hurling beer cans, ice cream and other leftovers from the concession stands at Straw, right fielder Oscar Mercado and other members of the Guardians. Yankees players, led by Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, abandoned the team celebration and tried to stop the foolishness coming from the stands.
After the game, Mercado called the display “classless,” while Straw said the Bronx faithful is the “worst fan base on the planet.” On Sunday morning, Boone understood the sentiment, though he also rejected it.
“That’s an emotional reaction to the moment,” Boone said. “Certainly understand that, but would disagree with that.”
Still, the Yankees brought in extra security for Sunday’s game. No similar incidents occurred, though Straw was predictably booed. He went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts.
Kwan cleared concussion protocol after running into the wall, though he exited Sunday’s game early with right hamstring tightness.
The Yankees trounced the Guardians in the series’ last game. Cleveland, which also struggled to catch the ball on multiple occasions, allowed the Yankees to score double-digit runs for the first time all season. Anthony Rizzo, D.J. LeMahieu and Tim Locastro all hit two-run homers.
The Yankees scored 19 runs over the three-game set, by far their highest total in a series this season. They hope their offense can maintain that momentum with the Orioles coming to town. Baltimore just took two out of three from the Yankees from April 15 to 17 with New York scoring just six runs.
“We’ve been in that position a handful of times and haven’t been able to finish off a sweep,” Boone said after the series wrapped. “Look, you want to try to rack up as many wins as you can. You take them whenever you get them. I feel like we’ve been playing pretty good baseball overall.
“When we’re playing at our best, that’s what you’re looking for, and I feel like that last couple of days we’ve done that.”