The Yankees didn’t just stay afloat without Gerrit Cole, they made up ground in the playoff push with the right-hander sidelined by COVID-19.
On Monday, their ace returned and hardly skipped a beat to keep their winning ways alive and well.
Cole pitched into the sixth inning and gave up just one run, allowing Joey Gallo’s two-run homer to stand as the decisive blow in a 2-1 win over the Angels at Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees (66-52), who went 9-4 in between Cole starts, will enter Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Red Sox just two games back of Boston for the final AL wild-card spot.
Making his first start since July 29 — testing positive for COVID-19 four days later — Cole gave up only one run, two hits and one walk over 5 ²/₃ innings while striking out nine. He threw 90 pitches and touched 100 mph after coming back from a mild case of the virus.
The recently shaky Yankees bullpen preserved the one-run lead that Cole exited with, delivering 3 ¹/₃ innings of one-hit ball. Zack Britton got the final out of the sixth, Albert Abreu piled up five quick outs, Joely Rodriguez struck out Shohei Ohtani looking to end the eighth and Chad Green secured the save in the ninth against the (Mike Trout-less) heart of the Angels (59-61) lineup.
It marked the Yankees’ 66th game this season decided by two runs or fewer, with the Bombers improving to an MLB-best 43-23.
Cole came out firing from the start, with his first pitch registering at 99 mph and being greeted with a healthy whiff from Ohtani. Cole eventually struck out Ohtani, and three batters in the first inning, but in between Justin Upton drilled a solo home run to left field.
The Angels’ lead didn’t last long, though. After Aaron Judge singled with one out in the bottom of the first, Gallo clobbered a two-run home run to the second deck in right field for the 2-1 Yankees lead. Gallo’s fourth home run as a Yankee — and third in three games — got out in a hurry, leaving his bat at 112.1 mph against Angels left-hander Jose Suarez.
Jonathan Davis helped keep the Yankees’ one-run lead intact in the fifth inning. After Cole walked Brandon Marsh, Jo Adell drilled a two-out pitch to deep center field. Davis got on his horse, sprinting back and to his left to haul it in for the final out.
Ohtani nearly tied the game with one swing in the sixth inning, but his deep drive settled into Giancarlo Stanton’s glove as he stood on the warning track in right-center field.
Cole should have finished off the sixth inning himself, but Rougned Odor bobbled a two-out grounder to third base, allowing Upton to reach on an error. Manager Aaron Boone then pulled Cole for Britton and the struggling reliever struck out Jared Walsh to end the frame.
Suarez threw nine straight balls to begin the bottom of the sixth on the way to walking the bases loaded with no outs. But Steve Cishek relieved him and escaped the jam without allowing a run, striking out Giancarlo Stanton and getting Luke Voit to ground into the Yankees’ league-leading 111th double play of the season.
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