Gerrit Cole’s Game 4 performance and Josh Naylor trash talk elevate Game 5 stakes


ALDS Game 5. New York Yankees vs Cleveland Guardians. Monday night. Yankee Stadium. It was all made possible by Gerrit Cole’s brilliant outing on Sunday in Game 4. Facing elimination, Cole made the Yankees forget about Saturday night’s horrific loss and delivered a gem.

The Yankees won 4-2 behind Cole’s seven strong innings. The right-hander allowed just two earned runs on six hits and a walk. He struck out eight batters and battled through 100 pitches.

That’s $324 million well spent, for all those still upset with Cole’s contract and don’t think he’s lived up to the billing. Sure, we’d like to see more against non-Cleveland teams and in front of more hostile crowds, but Cole’s showings have been the reason the Yankees are still afloat at this moment.

Cole’s energy for the entirety of his outing was that of a man on a mission. He was dialed in. He kept his cool when the pressure mounted. He was loud and celebratory after finishing off innings.

No moment was more fitting than Cole’s strikeout of Will Brennan to end the seventh inning. It was his final pitch of the night and he perfectly located a 98 MPH fastball before strutting his way back to the dugout.

Gerrit Cole was every Yankees fan during and after his gutsy Game 4 performance

That was likely pent up from the fourth inning, when Cole surrendered a solo home run off Josh Naylor, who celebrated excessively (and embarrassingly) while rounding the bases.

He called Cole his “little f—ing son” and repeatedly rocked an imaginary baby in his arms as he sprinted from first to third. This was all after he cut the Guardians’ deficit to 3-2 with more than half of the game still to go.

But Cole got the last laugh, and he took a shot at Naylor after the game.

Yankees fans have been all too accustomed to watching Cole lose his cool or melt down in big/antagonistic moments, but he held strong here and delivered three more stellar innings. He allowed just one more baserunner after Naylor’s deep ball.

Then, after the game, he made it clear that this series is far from over, but alluded to the fact the Yankees have bigger goals and that’s he’s “having the time of his life.”

Just like that, Saturday night feels like a week ago. Aaron Boone’s awful bullpen decision is an afterthought. Isiah Kiner-Falefa, after being benched on Sunday, no longer feels like a starter on this team.

Cole’s outing, attitude and response to Naylor have raised the stakes and put the Yankees back in the driver’s seat. It all comes down to Game 5. The Yankee Stadium crowd is going to be raucous, and they’ll without a doubt be backing Cole as they do their best to bury Naylor in boos and jeers.