The Yankees spent $324 million on Gerrit Cole so he could deliver in the big games. On Tuesday, he did not deliver his end of the bargain.
Cole reached the third inning against the Red Sox in the American League Wild Card Game, but could not record an out in the frame as designated hitter Kyle Schwarber launched a solo shot to right, center fielder Kike Hernandez dribbled out an infield single and third baseman Rafael Devers drew a walk.
With shortstop Xander Bogaerts — the batter who broke open the score with a two-run homer in the bottom of the first — due up, manager Aaron Boone decided he had seen enough from his starter. He pulled Cole and brought in Clay Holmes.
Cole had his premium velocity, and was able to get the swings and misses. But when he missed, he was missing right over the middle of the plate.
The changeup he threw to Bogaerts checked in at 89 mph and sailed right over dead center, while the 97.4 mph fastball to Schwarber was in the middle and just barely over the top of the zone, according to Baseball Savant.
His average fastball velocity was 97.8 mph; he finished his night with nine swings and misses. However, his fastball surrendered an average exit velocity of 96 mph.
Cole also saw the spin rate of all his pitches dip below his season averages. His 2,376 average rpms on his fastball was 77 down from his season average of 2,453. Cole’s slider, his primary out-pitch, was down 39 rpms. from 2,600 to 2,561.
This isn’t the first time Cole has struggled against the Red Sox. While the AL Cy Young contender has shined overall to a 3.23 ERA and 2.92 FIP in 181.1 innings this season, the Red Sox have hit him around for a 4.91 ERA with 31 strikeouts, nine walks and 24 hits in 22 innings across four starts coming into Tuesday’s matchup.
When Boone spoke to Matt Vasgersian and Alex Rodriguez up in the ESPN booth, he said Cole’s early exit was strictly performance-related, and did not have to do with any health concerns.
Cole finished the night with two innings pitched, four hits (two homers), three runs (all earned), two walks and three strikeouts in the win-or-go-home game. All things considered, pulling him based on his performance seems like it was a good call, no matter how much he’s being paid.