With two outs on five pitches against the Orioles' two best hitters in Cedric Mullins and Adley Rutschman, it appeared Yankees ace Gerrit Cole was prepared to sail smoothly through the first inning of Tuesday's series opener.
Unfortunately, the Orioles -- who are 13-2 in series openers so far this season -- never relented, watching as Cole unraveled over the course of the next three batters.
Ahead in the count to Anthony Santander, the third batter of the inning, Cole completely lost the plate and brought Ryan Mountcastle to the dish. History repeated itself in that AB; Cole got ahead in the count 1-2, then didn't come particularly close with balls two, three and four, setting up Adam Frazier to cash in both runners with a two-strike double just past Aaron Judge's headlong dive in right.
So, what went wrong? Why did Cole fall off the rails? According to footage from 6:44 PM EST, shown by Michael Kay on the YES broadcast only after there was traffic on the bases, Cole was spotted inspecting and messing with his thumb during his pregame warmups. Surely, win or lose, the postgame will focus on this mysterious callous or blister.
Gerrit Cole thumb issue: Did blister cause poor first inning for Yankees ace?
Hilariously, Cole's tough first inning was mirrored by young Orioles hurler Kyle Bradish, who walked the first two batters he faced before regrouping and striking out Anthony Rizzo/retiring DJ LeMahieu on a double play.
Wait. Did we say, "Hilariously"? We meant, "Frustratingly."
Cole's second inning was far smoother, as the right-hander whiffed two batters to reach the 2,000 strikeout mark, becoming the third-fastest pitcher in baseball history to do so (behind Chris Sale and Pedro Martinez).
Hopefully, Cole regains his confidence as the game continues after undoing an excellent situation in the opening frame. His health remains paramount; the team is 8-2 in his 10 starts leading into this one, and has two rotation spots currently held together by twine.