DETROIT — Gerrit Cole and the Yankees were hoping for a quick night playing in the cold Tuesday. They never could imagine the nightmare that played out in slow motion for their supposed ace.
Cole lasted a career-low 1.2 innings, walking a career-high tying five and getting yanked with the bases loaded. Thanks to the Yankees’ elite bullpen and the Tigers’ mistakes, the Bombers held on to beat the Tigers 4-2 at Comerica Park.
The Yankees improved to 6-5.
Cole walked a career-high four in the second inning, including three in a row. The five total walks tied the career-high he set on June 18, 2018, which was the only other time in his career he walked three batters in a row. He allowed two earned runs, including walking in a run with the bases loaded — a first in his career. He struck out three.
Clarke Schmidt saved the Yankees Tuesday night, coming in to throw 3.1 scoreless innings, scattering two hits. He walked one and struck out six. The bullpen, which had a 2.08 ERA, the best in the American League, once again carried the Yankees. The relievers — Wandy Peralta, Clay Holmes, Miguel Castro and Aroldis Chapman — held a one-run lead for 7.1 innings.
It was a lead Cole almost gave away.
He was spotted three runs by a Tigers team that seemed eager to hand over the game. In the first inning, the Yankees scored two on a pop up in front of the plate that pitcher Tyler Anderson had in his glove, but let it bounce out. After Anderson threw 42 pitches in the first, the Tigers went to Rony Garcia, who walked one and then split his nail. Will Vest let a runner score on a sacrifice fly. In the top of the ninth, DJ LeMahieu singled in an insurance run.
After being spotted the three-run lead, Cole gave up two right away.
He started off by giving up a single to Miguel Cabrera — his 2,996th career hit ― and then walked Akil Baddoo, Tucker Barnhart and Willi Castro, to score Cabrera. Robbie Grossman was out on a sacrifice fly to left field, scoring Baddoo. Cole walked Austin Meadows to end his night after throwing 46 pitches in the second inning, 68 total.
It was another night that Cole did not look like the dominant ace the Yankees went out and signed to a nine-year, $324 million deal in 2019. In his first two starts this season, Cole has bad moments, but overall looked fine. Tuesday night, he had a quick first inning, striking out the side and walking one.
So far, it’s been a very disappointing start to 2022.
Cole went into Tuesday night’s game with the highest barrel percentage (14.8) of his career and the highest expected slugging rate (.555) and tied for the second lowest strikeout rate of his career (23.1). His first pitch strike percentage is down 28.3 points and his first pitch swing percentage is also down slightly.
He left Tuesday night’s game with an ugly 6.35 ERA, the highest ERA in his career through three games.
It was a brutally cold 43 degrees at first pitch and Cole and other pitchers were obviously struggling to get a good grip on the ball.
Still, Cole has not been able to turn the page on a frustrating 2021 season that ended with him getting chased in the third inning of the American League Wild Card game against Boston.
He came out early in 2021 as the best pitcher in the league and then became the poster boy for pitchers using illegal sticky stuff on the balls in June when MLB decided to enforce their own rules more stringently. He adjusted and regained control of his season, only to catch COVID after the All-Star break. He got back on track and then, whether it was a tight hamstring or the workload (181.1 innings pitched after just 91 in 2020), Cole went into that Wild Card game with a 6.35 ERA over his final four starts.