Yankees ace Gerrit Cole is lucky the Boston Red Sox and, most importantly, their green band box known as Fenway Park won’t be anywhere near New York’s 2022 playoff run, no matter how long it may be.
Now, all that remains in front of Cole and the Yankees as they chase championship No. 28 (and Cole’s first ring) are the Guardians, Rays, Mariners, Blue Jays, Astros, and any number of 100-win-ish National League teams. No pressure.
Historically, Cole’s fared fantastically in the playoffs as a No. 2 behind Justin Verlander, and not so well as a No.1, especially in do-or-die Wild Card Games. The sample sizes here are minuscule, in the grand scheme of things, and Cole was excellent during his one extended Yankees playoff run (2020, when legally no one was allowed to watch). He’s an ace-type starter, despite his famed implosions. Handing the ball to him is never a mistake.
That said … what Yankee fan doesn’t feel more comfortable in the midst of a Nestor Cortes start, right about now?
The Yankees have gotten too cute before in the postseason, and it’s cost them — please continue to black out the JA Happ/Deivi Garcia game. But when you’re picking between All-Stars based on feel, can you really lose? And can you really not hand the ball to Cole in an opener at home?
Just ask the man. Despite being declared Aaron Boone’s playoff ace weeks ago, he would understand if Cortes ended up with the ball in his shoe on Oct. 11, as he told the New York Post this week.
Even Gerrit Cole understands if Yankees want to go with Nestor Cortes in Game 1
The ALDS schedule is particularly wonky this year, placing the Yankees at home for Game 1 on Oct. 11 and Game 2 on Oct. 13 before sending them on the road to play on Oct. 15. Two rest days, three games … before Games 4 and 5 get packed together with Game 3.
If you start the opener, you can come back fully rested for Game 4, but whoever starts Game 2 will end up on short rest for Game 5. That would, logically, be a great spot for Cole. Back at home. Power pitcher, stuff won’t be tremendously diminished by short rest, has done it before … yeah. You can talk yourself into Nestor for Game 1 without going too deep into the numbers.
That said, Cole’s do-or-die jitters would apply to Game 5, too. And how much of that can you really trust? Cole’s stared down implosions, just like everybody else. But he’s still a top-five arm in the game. And even the great Verlander has faltered in the small sample size beast of the Fall Classic, going winless in seven comparatively rough World Series starts.
Going with Nasty Nestor seems like the right call, taking all of 2022’s narratives into account.
But if you want to put your tried-and-true best foot forward, the same call from midsummer is the call today. Cole’s the guy.
Rest assured, this decision will be scrutinized until October’s first pitch. Good to know even the participants aren’t entirely sure how it’ll play out.