Gerrit Cole earned his Yankees fan bona fides in 2001. Did he just prove his pinstriped mettle on Sept. 11?
Sure, sure, true Yankees moments, especially for a player who received a $324 million commitment, must come in October. Nevertheless, this one felt quite big for the Yankees’ first-year ace, and profound too.
In throwing a two-hit shutout Friday afternoon in The Bronx, mowing down the Orioles, 6-0, to open a doubleheader sweep — Masahiro Tanaka (five innings, one run) prevailed in the nightcap, 10-1 — Cole halted a personal three-start losing streak and kicked off this surprisingly critical weekend on a great note, striking out nine while walking one and permitting just a pair of singles; his no-hitter ended with two outs in the fifth. The Yankees (24-21) now have put 3 ½ games between themselves and the O’s and the Tigers (20-24) in the race for the American League’s final postseason spot, and thanks to a Mets rout of the Blue Jays in Buffalo, they trail second-place Toronto (24-20) by just half a game in the AL East.
As they move further away from crisis mode, the Yankees can start envisioning a playoff rotation headed by Cole pitching as he did Friday.
“It was nice to see him go out and absolutely dominate a game from beginning to end,” Aaron Boone said.
This goes down as easily Cole’s biggest start as a Yankee so far, and he pulled it off wearing a cap not with his employer’s iconic interlocking NY, but rather with the New York Police Department’s insignia as the Yankees — sporting NYPD and Fire Department of New York caps as well as 9/11 patches on their uniform tops — honored those we lost on Sept. 11, 2001.
“I think everybody remembers that day,” said Cole, who was 11 at the time. “My mom woke me up, me and my sister, before school, and before she took us downstairs she talked to us — both of my parents talked to us for a minute — about what we were about to see, and it’s just a really sad day.
“So hopefully we honor the people that passed away that day. We honor the people that worked to save lives in the NYPD and the FDNY. This is a very somber day, but hopefully we were able to provide some joy for the people that are having a rough day today in New York.”
Less than two months after that horribly historic day, the Cole family traveled from its Southern California home to Phoenix to watch the Yankees take on the Diamondbacks in the World Series at Bank One Ballpark. Young Gerrit got some pub holding his “YANKEE FAN TODAY TOMORROW FOREVER” sign in the outfield. Cole brought that sign out of hiding, 18-plus years old and discolored, last December at his Yankee Stadium introductory news conference, captivating social media.
If the right-hander, delayed and devalued by the pandemic shutdown—_ that contract now is worth $301.3 million — didn’t embarrass himself in the early going of his maiden voyage here, he didn’t distinguish himself as the Yankees dreamed, either; the last game of his losing streak began in spectacular fashion, with five innings of shutout, nine-strikeout ball against the Orioles in Baltimore, only to unravel with a five-run sixth to continue a grotesque, 5-15 stretch for the club that put the Yankees’ playoff qualification in peril.
On Friday, therefore, Cole, deploying an improved curveball, pulled his weight while pushing the Orioles further away. The doubleheader, he noted, would allow him to wear an FDNY cap (the players chose between FDNY and NYPD) as he watched Game 2 from the dugout. “I wasn’t going to switch hats out during the game,” the creature of habit said, “but I did want to wear both.”
Cole did fine work all around on this always meaningful anniversary. If he can keep going like this on the mound, he might just inspire some youngster in Southern California, where the American League Championship Series likely will be held, to become a Yankees fan today, tomorrow and forever.