Usually, it’s the Yankees on the wrong side of a punking, watching the Rays and Red Sox self-motivate following some innocuous comments like Brett Gardner saying he doesn’t like Alex Cora.
What’s so controversial about that? No one does!
We’ve seen too many Yankees unravel under this kind of pressure to assume Cole would bring his best stuff to the mound, especially not after his spin rate declined in plain sight and Josh Donaldson of the Twins attempted to make him the face of MLB’s latest cheating scandal this week.
What would Cole do on the rubber one day after taking an evasive, two-minute route to tell the world nothing about his preference for Spider Tack? And what, specifically, would he do to Donaldson, who showed up Wednesday with obvious rib guards.
Everyone had their ideas. Fans worried he’d surrender a prime chance to show he still had “it” despite MLB’s crackdown. Yankees announcer Michael Kay put forth the violent suggestion that Cole try to snap a bone with his hardest heater. Nobody really liked that one.
In fact, his ultimate reaction was far closer to Jack Curry’s suggestion than what Kay put forth.
Yankees starter Gerrit Cole punched back against Josh Donaldson’s cheating allegations.
Ultimately, Cole handled Donaldson the only way he knew how: with gas, and a little bit of flair.
By game’s end, he’d rocked him to sleep with some of his hardest fastballs of the year and a devastating breaking ball, never allowing him to reach base in three plate appearances.
The first time he got him, there was a little theatricality involved, too, as Cole punctuated the whiff with either a sarcastic tip of his cap or an exaggerated grab at the brim of his hat, where an illegal substance would theoretically reside.
Not sure which it was, but we loved it either way.
Was this whole charade just Donaldson’s audition to be traded to the Red Sox at the deadline? Tired, angry little man.
Cole haters didn’t get anything they wanted in this game, aided by the fact that the Yankees blew the doors off the Twins. His spin rate declined only slightly from its peak, lending zero credence to the idea that he wouldn’t resemble the same pitcher in the next few months. His fastball hit its highest velocity in a long time, and it did so repeatedly. He allowed just two solo home runs, limiting the damage that was done against him. He also spun one hell of a curveball.
On top of everything, four of Cole’s eight fastest pitches on the evening came to Donaldson, which he presumably did not enjoy, considering they were also paired with the Curveball From Hell (shoutout to Richard Lewis).
If the Yankees are going to get back into contention, they’re both going to have to win Gerrit Cole starts, and prove once and for all that it’s not super easy to burrow into their heads and distract them.
For one night, at least, both goals were met, and everybody’s ribs stayed intact.